Revisiting 'locality pay' issue

July 31, 2007

It will be tough to sell West Virginia's state lawmakers on the idea of "locality pay" for teachers if the groups representing educators oppose the idea.

State Sen. John Yoder says that while Eastern Panhandle lawmakers back the idea, the West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers oppose it.

Yoder said he believes that the opposition comes because those groups feel that if there is money for raises, it should be spread among all teachers in the state.

That's unrealistic, because the state is unlikely to find enough money to match what Eastern Panhandle teachers can get just by crossing state lines into Maryland, Pennsylvania or Virginia.


And should anyone believe that such teachers are only concerned with money, consider that they face the same increases in the cost of housing and energy that others in the Tri-State area face.

Teachers sacrifice much of their private time for their profession; it's not fair to ask them to impoverish themselves, too.

The state has provided some help, according to Del. Walter Duke, R-Berkeley.

Duke said that the decision to allow local counties to keep some of the tax revenue that would otherwise have been sent to the state capital enabled Berkeley County to give its teachers a raise of about $1,600.

In March, following a teacher walkout to protest low pay, we suggested that in the short term the Eastern Panhandle counties should seek additional authority to supplement teacher salaries.

Other states have created special funds for that purpose, selling special license plates. Creating a school foundation is another possibility.

Whatever happens should happen quickly. Education is West Virginia's future and the state can't let its best teachers walk out the door.

The Herald-Mail Articles