CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Governor Jim Justice is standing firm on his aim to pay teachers more for hard-to-fill positions in certain subjects.
Justice proposed the idea during his State of the State address on Wednesday and appeared on Thursday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’, standing behind it.
“I am going to give a little discretion to those to come up with a methodology that will work the best,” he said. “The bottom line is we’ve got positions whether it be math, science, foreign languages, or special education to where we absolutely cannot attract. We are desperate to have those teachers come.
“We’re going to have to come up with a little bit of thinking that is outside the box. It’s going to probably have to come with some level of salary enhancement.”
Justice, who announced a five percent raise for teachers and $150 million funding for PEIA during his address, said there has been plenty of support for teachers and it needs to continue with this.
“We’re raising everybody,” he said. “Last year we had the biggest raise in state history. We are going to double down on it this year. Everybody needs to sit back and be happy just a little bit but we need to get math teachers for these kids.”
When asked by ‘Talkline’ host Hoppy Kercheval about the backlash he would receive from teacher organizations because of their stance of unfairness of paying certain teachers more for different subjects, Justice made a comparison.
“We are trying as hard as we possibly can to have an equitable balance,” he said. “That is why I have tried to bank the leave time. The net of the whole thing is you have to fill the positions. In a coal mining operation, the electrician is absolutely always paid a couple bucks more than the guy who is running the continuous miner because electronics are always hard to find.
“Right now, we need math teachers and we need them really bad. I don’t know any other way we can get it done.”
Justice discussed more about going back to an old system where teachers could bank leave or sick time and use it towards health insurance if they retired prior to receiving Medicare at age 65.
He said the current system is forcing absenteeism on teachers, which is also hurting students.
“We have forced people through the course of the year to take their leave time as they go through the year,” he said. “What does that do? It gives us vacant classrooms and then we have to fill them with substitute teachers. Naturally, they are not getting the same instruction that they would get from their teacher.
“At the end of the day, it is costing us big bucks and it is hurting our students. Why in the world shouldn’t we give that perk back to our teachers and have them back in the classroom and be able to use whatever methodology that will work within the system? If it is enhancing or helping them with retirement packages more power to it. At the end of the day, it is costing us big time money and costing students additional learning.”
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said he liked what Justice said about returning to the program to bank sick days. He added he would have to see more details on the idea of pay raises for certain subject teachers before making a clear judgment.