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Senators advance bill bumping up pay for teachers early in their careers

West Virginia senators are advancing a bill that would bump teachers fresh to the profession up pay scales as if they are all on their eighth year in classrooms.

So, Senate Bill 204 is meant for salaries of teachers in their first through eighth years professionally all to be treated as they have eight years toward the pay scale.

The Senate Education Committee advanced the bill on Tuesday morning, and it next goes to the Senate Finance Committee. A fiscal note estimates a $24 million cost to the state.

Charles Trump

Senator Charles Trump, R-Morgan, said he conceived of the bill as a way to address West Virginia’s teaching vacancies. The best strategy, Trump suggested, would be to raise salaries for starting workers.

“I’m trying to address, with the bill, a big problem that we have in West Virginia. And it is our vacancy rate,” Trump said during the committee meeting. “There are lots of things contributing to this problem, but compensation is certainly one of them.”

Trump noted that the eastern panhandle, where he lives, is constantly competing with surrounding states.

“I acknowledge and concede that this doesn’t fully address the problem because all of our teachers are underpaid, and this doesn’t do anything for any of them who have taught more than seven years. They’re right where they would be if this bill passes.

“But my theory is this: whether you have 700 vacancies or 1,500 vacancies, the best chance you have of filling those is with new people.”

Dale Lee

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee appeared before the committee and suggested one unintended consequence could be the frustration of teachers around their eighth year of service, just outside the boundaries of the proposed raise.

“My concern with that is, you have a brand new teacher coming in and a teacher who has been there eight years, and the second year they’re teaching — that beginning teacher’s second year and that eight-year teacher’s ninth year — they’re still in the same scale and will be that way from that point on.

“So you’re eliminating eight years of increment raises for those educators.”

Trump said he’s willing to continue working out any kinds in the bill.

“I know people who’ve taught for 10 years and 17 years and 25 years deserve to be paid more than they’re being paid,” Trump said. “This measure, for me anyway, is designed to attack that vacancy problem. And I’m thinking the best pipeline for us is to be competitive with other states with people newly-minted with a teaching certificate.”

The WVEA and American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia last week released findings from a series of focus groups around the state, concluding that recruitment and retention are top issues.

“Salaries must be competitive with education jobs in our surrounding states as well as other professions in West Virginia,” their report concluded. “While the recent 5 percent salary increases have been appreciated, they have not kept up with the salaries of our surrounding states and inflation.”

The House Education Committee last week advanced a bill that would bump starting teachers salaries from $39,000 up to $44,000. Following that, other salary levels established through statutory formula would also adjust upwards.

Laura Wakim Chapman

Today in the Senate Education Committee meeting, Senator Laura Wakim Chapman, R-Ohio, said she supports the pay raise bill for early-career teachers while acknowledging

“I’m going to support this bill, but I share your concerns that people who put in the time might be — not offended, but they put in their time,” she said. “And I think we can all agree our wonderful educators are not paid enough.”

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