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W.Va. Board of Education to develop way to pay Panhandle teachers more

September 14, 2007|By DAN DEARTH

Financial relief could be in sight for school teachers in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, where annual pay for educators ranks among the lowest in the state.

On Wednesday, the West Virginia Board of Education agreed to develop a plan that would help the Eastern Panhandle's teachers receive pay that is commensurate to the region's high cost of living, said Liza Cordeiro, a spokeswoman for the state's department of education.

She said the state board would collect recommendations for the plan in October.

The state board's decision was made on the recommendation of a circuit judge, who in August, refused to grant a request from the state board to drop a lawsuit against it, Cordeiro said.

The lawsuit was filed earlier this summer on behalf of teachers from the Berkeley County Education Association.

The lawsuit said, in part, that the state board should be forced to obey a state law requiring it to at least address the increasing cost of living problem for teachers who reside in developing parts of West Virginia, said Paul Taylor, an attorney for the Berkeley County Education Association.

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Taylor, who also represents teacher unions in Jefferson and Morgan counties, said the state Legislature passed the law in 1990, but the problem remains today.

He said he filed the lawsuit earlier this summer, and plans to pursue the matter further unless the state board follows through.

"We're just trying to get the state board to comply with the law," he said.

Some of West Virginia's lowest paid teachers live in the Eastern Panhandle.

Of West Virginia's 55 counties, Morgan County's teachers are paid the lowest on average at $37,202.81 per year, while teachers in Berkeley and Jefferson counties rank in the bottom 10, according to statistics from the West Virginia Department of Education.

The statistics show the annual average salary for teachers in Berkeley County is $38,568.80 and $38,875.06 in Jefferson County.

The state average is $40,534.13, according to the statistics. Marshall County is ranked first at $43,936.22.

Cordeiro, the state's department of education spokeswoman, said statistics concerning the cost of living are unavailable.

David Haney, executive director of the West Virginia Education Association, said the state teachers union would support the efforts of its members in Berkeley, Jefferson and Morgan counties to get higher pay.

He said the WVEA is trying to get higher pay for all of the teachers in the state to prevent them from leaving for more lucrative jobs in other parts of the country.

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