The average annual salary for a public school teacher in West Virginia has reached above $50,000 for the first time. Figures from the State Department of Education show the salary average for this school year is $50,237.97.

The average pay is above $50,000 for teachers in 20 counties, with Putnam County at the top at $53,705.27, followed by Doddridge at $53,285.26 and then Monongalia at $52,853.72.

The lowest average teacher pay this year is in Summers County at $45,017.88, followed by Gilmer County at $45,956.69.

Teachers have received pay raises each of the last two years totaling nearly $4,200 and averaging about five percent each year. Those raises, along with annual incremental increases for years one through 35 of experience, have brought the average pay up from just over $45,000 for the 2017-2018 school year to over $50,000 today.

Despite the raises, West Virginia still lags well behind the national average.

The latest figures from the National Education Association are from 2018, but even then the average pay was just over $60,000. West Virginia teacher pay ranked 50th out of the 50 states and Washington, D.C. that year, just ahead of Mississippi.

The teacher unions frequently complain that it is difficult to hire and retain teachers in West Virginia because they can make more in surrounding states, and that’s a valid point.

According to the website salary.com, the average teacher pay in each of the five surrounding states is higher. The issue is especially acute in the eastern panhandle. Salary.com reports the average teacher salary in Maryland is $59,416, while in Virginia it’s $57,281.

But in fairness, those are wealthier states. U.S. Census figures show the median household income in West Virginia was just under $45,000 a year in 2018, compared with $73,000 in Virginia and nearly $83,000 in Maryland.

Governor Justice has not proposed any new teacher, service worker or state employee raises in his budget for next fiscal year, and there isn’t much sentiment in the legislature to raise pay because of the tight budget.

Leaders of teacher unions appear to have accepted that reality. However, as West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee told me, they don’t want to settle into another long period of no substantive raises, otherwise they will once again be losing ground.

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