Advertisement

Group warns of plan to sue West Virginia over salaries

May 02, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - The issue of compensation for Eastern Panhandle teachers is surfacing again, this time over a state law passed 17 years ago.

An attorney representing a group of teachers, principals and other school workers in the three Panhandle counties said Tuesday that the group is prepared to file a lawsuit to force the state Board of Education to comply with the law that deals with cost-of-living increases in rapidly growing areas.

The state law says that when salaries of teachers in fast-growing areas of the state are not equal to the purchasing power of teachers and other school workers in other parts of the state, the state Board of Education must come up with a plan to address the issue, Martinsburg attorney Paul Taylor said.

"However, it appears the board has failed to comply with the law, straining the ability of certain local boards of education to attract, hire and retain the most qualified personnel," Taylor said in a press release.

Advertisement

Taylor said his clients will wait 30 days for the state Board of Education to respond to his statement.

If the Board of Education does not respond in a way that satisfies the group of local teachers, they will file suit to force the board to comply with the law, Taylor said.

Many Eastern Panhandle teachers have complained about low teacher pay and increasing costs of living in the area. On March 14, hundreds of teachers in Berkeley and Jefferson counties walked out of their classrooms in protest of a pay increase plan by the state.

The state Legislature agreed to a 3.5 percent pay increase for teachers but some instructors say they want a three-year pay package consisting of a 6 percent pay increase the first two years and a 3 percent pay increase in the third year.

Taylor said his action is not another way to deal with teacher salaries.

Taylor said there are different ways that the state could compensate teachers for cost-of-living increases.

A spokeswoman for the state Board of Education declined to comment in detail on Taylor's statement.

The state Board of Education was just made aware of the issue and will look into it, said Liza Cordeiro. The state Board of Education will share more information about the issue as soon as it can, Cordeiro said.

Taylor said he is representing seven educational groups in the Eastern Panhandle. They are the Berkeley County Education Association, the Berkeley County Principals Association, the Berkeley County School Service Personnel Association, the Jefferson County Education Association, the Jefferson County Principals Association, the Jefferson County School Service Personnel Association and the Morgan County Education Association.

Taylor said he did not know how many people were represented in the groups.

"I was approached by a number of teachers about what could be done," Taylor said.

Sen. John Unger, D-Berkeley/Jefferson, said the law Taylor is referring to was passed before he was elected to the Legislature. Unger added that he has not seen a plan to deal with cost-of-living increases in rapidly growing areas.

"I can understand why they are taking that angle," Unger said.

But such a plan "just presents more evidence" on an issue state officials are already aware of and it does not solve the problem, Unger said.

Unger said the way to deal with low compensation for local teachers is to challenge the so-called Recht decision.

The Recht decision was a 1982 Kanawha County Circuit Court decision that mandated that the amount of money spent to educate children be the same across school districts in the state, Unger said.

The problem is that the law does not take into account higher costs of educating children in areas like the Eastern Panhandle, Unger said.




Know more in 30 seconds



The issue: Many teachers and staff in the Eastern Panhandle have been complaining about their salaries for years with many teachers leaving the state for higher paying jobs.

What's new: An attorney representing a group of teachers, principals and other school workers in the three Panhandle counties said Tuesday the group is prepared to file a lawsuit to force the state Board of Education to comply with a law that deals with cost-of-living increases in rapidly growing areas.

What's next: If the Board of Education does not respond in 30 days in a way that satisfies the parties involved, they will file suit to force the board to comply with the law.

The Herald-Mail Articles
|
|
|