Lawmakers Consider Pay Raise, PEIA Fixes

CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) - There are more than 700 open teachers positions in West Virginia, according to state officials. Most point to low pay and declining benefits as some of the key reasons why the state can't fill the vacancies.

But in this session, lawmakers say they're discussing how to change all that. Lawmakers are bouncing around ideas as to how to get teachers to stay in West Virginia. The main focus is on pay raises and fixing PEIA, or the Public Employee Insurance Agency. Educators say things are dire and lawmakers need to act now.

Fred Albert is a 6th-grade math teacher at Dupont Middle School. He's worried there just aren't enough qualified teachers in West Virginia.

"We're losing teachers and we're not attracting bright young teachers that will stay in the classroom because of the surrounding states paying more- and we're losing ground," Albert explained.

Albert said competitive pay has been a problem for years, but in the past, PEIA benefits were an incentive. Not anymore.

"Premiums are increasing, out of pocket co-pays are increasing, deductibles will be increasing, and that too is troublesome," Albert explained.

Lawmakers say they know it's a problem, and it's hurting the state when it comes to attracting new families.

"The first things they ask their real estate agent is what are the schools like in this district where I'm wanting to bring my family? are the schools quality schools? And can we really have quality schools if we do not have all the positions filled with certified teachers," Albert added.

So Delegate Zack Maynard and others are considering a 1% pay raise for all state employees, along with additional funding for PEIA.

"Does money fix this problem, does regulatory reform fix this problem? There's other things with this that is really hindering our state employees," Del. Maynard told 13 News.

While the struggles with PEIA may be complex, teachers say right now a 1% pay raise just won't offset the increase insurance costs.

"As a substitute teacher 2 years I ago, I completely understand and I believe it's going to hinder the way our government is efficient," Del. Maynard said.

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