CHARLESTON (AP) - West Virginia's largest teachers union said Monday it wants the state to begin offering teacher salaries that are competitive with those in surrounding states, although it didn't specify what a competitive salary would be or suggest how the state would pay for it.
The West Virginia Education Association launched its competitive salary campaign during a press conference at its Charleston headquarters, where it said low teacher salaries are driving talented educators out of state to look for better-paying jobs.
West Virginia's average teacher salary is about $45,000, which ranks 48th in the nation. The national average is about $55,000.
WVEA President Dale Lee said the state needs to be competitive with its surrounding states, all of which have larger average salaries for their teachers and are within driving distance for many teachers in West Virginia.
"I could certainly go into Loudoun County (Va.), I could also go into Maryland, which is about five miles from my home," Leslie Boyd, a Jefferson County elementary school teacher, said by telephone. "So I definitely have other options. I just choose to stay in West Virginia because I love the state, but I don't know how much longer I'll stay."
The average salaries in surrounding states range from nearly $49,000 in Virginia to about $64,000 in Pennsylvania. However, there's also been no analysis done on what teacher salaries are in counties near West Virginia, which vary from the affluent suburbs of Washington, D.C. in Virginia and Maryland to poorer, rural areas elsewhere. Lee declined to specify what the union believes would be a competitive salary.
"We haven't actually put a dollar figure on this amount, but we know it has to be a multi-year program. We know that we can't give a raise one year and then go three or four more years without a salary increase like we have in the past," Lee said.
Every $1,000 salary increase for teachers would cost the state about $26.4 million, according to Lee. Lee said finding the money to pay for raises needs to be a priority, but he didn't say how he believes lawmakers should pay for it.
"It's not our job to find the resources for them, but it is their job to place a priority," he said.
"Anything up at the capitol that they make a priority, they're able to find the funding for it."