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Teacher pay and the courts

May 04, 2007

West Virginia teachers not satisfied with the pay raise they received in the last legislative session say they might go to court over the matter.

If that happens, they must first figure out how to deal with a court decision and a state law that are in conflict.

Teachers won a 3.5 percent increase, but many want a three-year pact that would give them 6 percent increases in the first two years and 3 percent in the third year.

To that end, some are relying on a 17-year-old law that says that when salaries in fast-growing areas of the state aren't keeping pace with the cost of living, the state Board of Education must craft a plan to deal with the imbalance.

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But state Sen. John Unger, D-Berkley/Jefferson, said a better method would be to challenge Ohio County Circuit Judge Arthur Recht's order.

The case, which goes back to 1975, resulted in a verdict in which the judge ordered that the amount spent per-pupil must be equal in all school districts.

In January 2003, the judge backed off after hearing a state plan for education, but reserved the right to reopen the case.

At the heart of Recht's ruling was a desire to see all children, not just those in affluent areas, get a good education.

Now the court and the legislature have to be convinced that students in growing areas shouldn't be penalized because teachers can no longer afford to live and work there.

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