State Schools Superintendent Paine turns down salary increase

Carmichael critical of proposed raise

CHARLESTON — Hours after a rebuke from the West Virginia Senate’s top leader, State Superintendent of Schools Steve Paine announced Thursday he would not accept a pay increase.

Paine released a statement Thursday afternoon, a day after the state Board of Education approved a $4,170 salary increase for the superintendent at its monthly meeting Wednesday.

“At this time, I am not willing to accept a salary increase,” Paine said. “Until we are able to address the lack of certified teachers in our classrooms and only as we are able to provide competitive benefits to our educators — inclusive of adequate pay and affordable health care — will I consider accepting a salary increase.”

Paine, who returned to his position as state schools superintendent in March 2017 after previously serving in that role from 2005 to 2011, makes $230,000 per year. The raise came after two years of positive job evaluations by the state board. The raise was meant to match the two 5 percent average pay increases teachers and school service personnel received in 2018 and 2019.

This raise did not sit well with Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson. He released a statement Thursday morning condemning the raise.

“I was shocked and outraged that the State School Board would deem it necessary and appropriate to grant a $4,100 pay raise to an employee that is already making $230,000 annually,” Carmichael said.

“I consider it a slap in the face to every teacher and school employee that an unelected board would unilaterally grant a pay increase to the highest paid employee in state education, which is nearly double what each teacher is to receive,” Carmicheal continued. “This action by the State School Board sends the wrong message to our teachers, students, parents, and taxpayers.”

Paine said he was extremely appreciative to the state Board of Education for voting to give him a salary increase, but he didn’t want to become a lightning rod.

“I am deeply appreciative of the West Virginia Board of Education’s confidence in me and willingness to recognize the accomplishments we have realized over the past two years through hard work and the use of innovative strategies,” Paine said. “Unfortunately, the Board’s vote to provide me with a salary increase has become a distraction to the students of West Virginia and they deserve better.”

House Bill 206, signed into law in June, provides a 5 percent pay raise for teachers and staff that goes into effect during the 2019-2020 school year. The legislature passed a 5 percent pay raise in 2018 after a 10-day strike by teachers and school service personnel.

“The legislature has made a dedicated effort to lift the pay of teachers and service personnel in West Virginia by funding consecutive years of historic salary increases,” Carmichael said. “After years of neglect under Democrat leadership, Republicans are making big commitments to raise teacher pay and invest heavily in local school systems.”

After a task force was created in 2018, minor changes were made to the Public Employees Insurance Agency, such as more affordable rates for employees who seek care across state lines and a prescription drug appeal process, and an $100 million shortfall fund was created to sure up the program in the short term.

Paine said there are more important things to worry about than his salary increase, such as implementing HB 206, which includes greater hiring flexibility and pay differentials for teachers, open enrollment between counties, more funding and control of spending at the county school level, and the state’s first public charter school program.

On Wednesday, the West Virginia Education Association announced its intent to file suit against the new law.

“Our focus needs to be on the upcoming school year and working together to move public education forward,” Paine said. “I am more determined than ever to roll up my sleeves and work hard to provide every West Virginia student with the education they deserve.”

In response to Paine rejecting his pay raise, Carmichael praised the decision but still criticized the state board for voting for the raise in the first place.

“I commend Dr. Paine for refusing to accept a raise to his current annual salary of $230,000,” Carmichael said.

“It’s unfortunate that the State Board of Education took this unsolicited action to enhance the State Superintendent’s salary and to place Dr. Paine is such an awkward position,” Carmichael said. “I believe this is symptomatic of the Board’s consistent pattern of mistakes and misalignment with the steps that are necessary to enhance student success in West Virginia. My hope is that future actions by this Board will reflect a dedication to students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers.”

A request for comment from state Board of Education President Dave Perry was not returned.

Steven Allen Adams can be reached at sadams@newsandsentinel.com