PARKERSBURG - The president of the West Virginia Education Association Monday launched the "competitive pay" campaign for West Virginia teachers.
The association, one of the state's largest unions, is making an effort for higher salaries they say are necessary to attract and retain quality educators. According to the National Education Association the average starting salary in West Virginia is $32,435.
West Virginia colleges and universities produce scads of graduates with education degrees, but not enough of them choose to stay in state to teach, state President Dale Lee said.
"We are an exporter of education graduates to other states while positions in our own state remain unfilled," Lee said.
Wood County Schools Finance Director Connie Roberts said first-year teachers in Wood County start at $33,435.
"That's a bachelor of arts with zero experience," she said.
In addition to the starting salary, the Wood County school system and the state both offer additional incentives. The county will pay up to $800 in tuition reimbursement for applicable college coursework.
There is an annual increment built in salaries with teachers receiving a $587 pay raise after the first year, Roberts said.
"It's part of the salary schedule," Roberts said. "It's partially funded by the state and partially by the county."
The county school system also contributes $1,000 toward becoming a national Board Certified Teacher. Once teachers achieve that certification, they receive a $7,000 pay raise, with $3,500 each coming from the county and state contributions. The process to achieve certification can take one to three years.
Board certified teachers with three years in the school system would see at least a $9,000 pay increase.
"We also pay extra duty pay for lunch and bus duty, club sponsorship, academic fairs and competitions," Roberts said. "We also provide staff development pay."
Lee said Monday over the last decade, West Virginia has slipped in rankings of average teachers' salaries among all 50 states. In 1993, the average teacher's salary in West Virginia was the 30th among the states.
Ten years later it slipped to 38th.
Association officials said the average teacher's salary in West Virginia is $45,453, ranking it 48th in the country where the national average is about $55,000. The average teacher's salary in Wood County is $47,405. Wood County has 79 National Board Certified teachers.
Lee said West Virginia teachers also earn, on average, less than teachers in the surrounding states.
WVEA officials comparing West Virginia to neighboring states omit the fact that those states - with the exception of Kentucky - are among the most heavily-populated states in the nation, and are home to some of the largest cities and metropolitan areas.
Kentucky with 4.3 million residents has more than double West Virginia's 1.8 million population. Kentucky has an average annual starting salary for teachers of $35,075.
While it might may be unfair to compare West Virginia to neighboring states, WVEA officials claim the surrounding states attract and retain quality educators. With higher salaries, Lee said, the state could attract more quality educators to West Virginia, and keep the ones that it already has.
WVEA officials didn't specify where the state would get the money to give teachers pay raises, or what salary the union feels would be competitive.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.