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Teacher pay raise bill proposed

January 24, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - A Berkeley County delegate said Tuesday that he is co-sponsoring a bill that might add $2,000 more per year to an Eastern Panhandle teacher's salary.

The lead sponsor of the bill is newly elected House Majority Leader Joe DeLong, D-Hancock, who met with local officials before the start of the current legislative session to say he is sympathetic to growth issues in the Eastern Panhandle.

The bill being proposed by DeLong, Del. Walter Duke, R-Berkeley, and Del. Richard Browning, D-Wyoming, deals with the so-called school-aid formula that is used to calculate how much a county school system gets annually from the state to run its schools.

A county's school-aid formula is based on how many students a county has and other factors, Duke said.

After that amount of state money is determined, the amount of money generated from a local general levy is subtracted from the state funding, Duke said.

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Duke's bill would reduce the amount of the local share that is subtracted from the state-aid formula to 70 percent. The current amount subtracted is 98 percent.

Duke said he thinks the proposal would generate about $50 million in revenue and - although he still is determining how much it might generate for teacher pay raises - it could give teachers a pay raise of $2,000 or more.

There have been other proposals to reduce the local share subtracted from the state-aid formula to 90 percent, but that would not generate enough money for local teachers, Duke said.

Eastern Panhandle teachers have been upset over the inability of the Legislature to pass substantial pay raises for them.

Experienced teachers can commute an hour to counties in Virginia and Maryland and see a salary boost of more than $10,000, and local school officials have had to scramble to fill teacher openings left by instructors leaving for higher pay.

After the Legislature started its current session, about 4,000 teachers showed up at the Capitol demanding more pay.

DeLong said his bill is not the solution to low teacher pay, but it will "help stop the bleeding over there," referring to the Eastern Panhandle.

Del. Bob Tabb, D-Jefferson, said it is hard to tell how the proposal will be received in the Legislature, which started its 60-day session two weeks ago.

"Introducing a bill and getting it voted on are two different things," Tabb said Tuesday night. "We're just facing a difficult battle down here."

Tabb said there have been many different teacher pay-raise proposals considered in the Legislature, and the thinking among some lawmakers is if "they throw enough things at the wall, something will stick."

DeLong said he thinks the Legislature is showing its willingness to deal with some of the problems facing Eastern Panhandle schools.

One of the first bills passed by the House of Delegates last week was a bill that would drop a state requirement about how long a retired teacher can be a substitute teacher, DeLong said.

Under the requirement, a retired teacher could not teach any more than 140 days or risk losing retirement benefits.

DeLong said removing the requirement is important to help ease some of the teacher-shortage problems in the Eastern Panhandle.

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