In West Virginia, Teacher Pay on Par with Part-Time State, County Elected Officials

WHEELING — In West Virginia, the average public school teacher earns slighty more each year than an elected county commissioner and a state legislator.

The difference? Both county commissioners and state lawmakers are part-time positions.

While being responsible for the education and safety of children — not to mention having to repay student loans and continuously upgrade their own credentials — West Virginia teachers are asking for more than the 2 percent pay raise recently passed by the state House. With the average salary now at $45,622, the average teacher would see about an $800 increase next year.

This, however, would still leave these teachers behind their colleagues in neighboring Maryland and Pennsylvania by an average of about $20,000 per year in each case.

“We are well below our competing states,” West Virginia Education Association representative Kym Randolph said. “And as folks retire, the average salary will drop from what it is now.”

Photo by Joselyn King Local teachers, state employees and their supporters turn out for a regional town hall meeting for local teachers Saturday at John Marshall High School.

“These salaries have to be competitive, not just with other states, but with other occupations,” she added.

In West Virginia, individual teacher salaries are based on a combination of experience and level of education. According to the state Education Association, a new teacher holding only a bachelor’s degree will likely start at $32,675 per year. Conversely, a teacher who holds a doctorate degree and has 35 years of experience will earn $59,897.

Let’s assume that a typical teacher works 175 out of the 180 days in the school year, with an average day consisting of seven hours. This means the teacher will work 1,225 hours in a year for their average salary of $45,622.

Based on these hours and wages, the teacher would get about $37.25 per hour. However, this does not account for time the teacher may spend at home grading student papers and formulating lesson plans, nor does it count the time the teacher must spend on their own continuing education.

“They have to take graduate classes to maintain their licenses, while paying tuition out of their own pockets in most cases,” Randolph said. “The average teacher also spends about $500 out-of-pocket per year to provide things like tissues and hand sanitizer for their classrooms.”

West Virginia Legislative Services Photo West Virginia Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, listens during a judiciary committee meeting Wednesday at the Capitol in Charleston.

“They are dedicated people, but they have reached their breaking point,” Randolph added.

By contrast, elected county commissioners can earn up to $41,395, depending upon the total taxable property value in the county. Although most boards of commissioners meet at least twice per month, West Virginia law only requires them to meet four times per year — with no guidance as to how long such a meeting is.

This means a county commissioner could, at least in theory, work less than 10 hours per year to get $41,395. Assuming 10 hours, this commissioner would earn more than $4,000 per hour.

Members of the House of Delegates and West Virginia Senate, meanwhile, get $27,860 for 60 days worth of work, which includes their salary and per diem payments. Assuming they work 10 hours per day during the session for a total of 600 hours, this means the legislators would get $46.43 on an hourly basis.

Randolph did not discuss specific comparisons to elected officials or those in other professions, but said it is getting more difficult to attract teachers to West Virginia.

Photo by Joselyn King Ohio County Commissioners Tim McCormick, from left, Orphy Klempa and Randy Wharton sit down for Tuesday night’s commission meeting.

“Some teachers don’t even encourage their children to go into it now,” she said. “Respect is down and morale is down.”