Attracting More School Teachers

West Virginians are told our state has a shortage of school teachers. It is serious enough that the former head of the state’s American Federation of Teachers chapter, Christine Campbell, stepped down from that post to work on a solution.

Ironically, one potential aid has been opposed in the past by the AFT and the other teachers’ union, the West Virginia Education Association.

It is addressing the challenge the way the private sector would, by offering higher pay to teachers in subjects and places where shortages are greatest.

Geographic and subject pay differentials have been discussed many times in the past. But they have been rejected by lawmakers in part because of pressure from the unions.

Now, incoming House of Delegates Education Committee Chairwoman Patricia Rucker thinks it may be time to reconsider such action. In an interview with another media outlet, Rucker, R-Jefferson, said legislators should consider “locality pay.” In other words, teachers in areas where there is greater competition for them, such as border counties, should be paid more.

That could attract more people to teaching jobs in the Mountain State — and avoid losing experienced ones to other states.

In addition, higher pay for teachers in certain specialities, such as mathematics and science, ought to be considered.

The number we hear when talking about teacher shortages, 700, is misleading. Often it does not mean that classrooms lack people at the front of the room, but that they are not certified in the subjects they teach. And, as we know, it can be difficult in some counties to find qualified substitute teachers.

Until and unless we address the challenge, West Virginia students will suffer. Out-of-the-box ideas such as pay differentials for teachers should be implemented as one means of solving the problem.

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