West Virginia Education Association campaigns for competitive pa - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

West Virginia Education Association campaigns for competitive pay

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The West Virginia Education Association is campaigning for higher teacher pay. The West Virginia Education Association is campaigning for higher teacher pay.

The West Virginia Education Association is launching a competitive pay campaign with the hopes of increasing salaries of educators to a level that is competitive with West Virginia's surrounding states.

Last year West Virginia ranked 48th in the nation in average teacher salaries. According to research by the National Education Association, the 2012- 2013 average salary in West Virginia is $45,453.  In Ohio, the average salary is $57,140 and in Kentucky it's $49,374.

"We are using the surrounding states as our immediate competitive goal because 29 of the 55 counties directly border one of the surrounding states and many others are within 50 miles of the state line," said Dale Lee, president of the WVEA, during the press conference.

Since West Virginia offers the lowest salary, Lee says the state is losing teachers to Ohio, Kentucky, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

"It isn't that we have a shortage of teacher graduates in our state," he said. "We have a shortage of graduates willing to stay in our state and work at the salary we offer them."

According to the WV Department of Education's personnel data report, there were 1,541 education graduates last year but only 438 were employed in the state.  This number, however, does not account for the education graduates that found jobs in other industries within the state.

Dr. Calandra Lockhart, the Department of Education Chair at the University of Charleston, said while many choose to take the traditional route and become teachers others use their education degrees to go into other fields.

"Our students are wanting options and our programs allow us them to have those options because they can have multiple different types of employment, different types of jobs," Lockhart said.

At the University of Charleston, those wanting to become teachers are encouraged to teach in the state.

"We know West Virginia schools just like any other state schools needs highly qualified teachers so we want West Virginia schools to have our teachers," said Lockhart.

However, teaching in a state ranked 48th in the nation in average teacher salaries can be discouraging to those entering the profession or to those who have been teaching for years.  School systems across West Virginia have had record vacancies.  For example, Raleigh County began the year with 74 vacancies.

Numerous openings are encouraging for students like Whitney Crum, a senior at the University of Charleston.  In a couple of months, Crum will have to decide if she wants to go to graduate school and get her masters degree or begin teaching.

"I just like to keep my options open," Crum said.

Crum said her love for West Virginia will probably keep her in the state.

Supporters of the WVEA Competitive Pay Campaign say there has to be a multi-year effort in order to improve and maintain salaries. The WVEA has not put an exact number on what it would like average salaries to increase to