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W.Va. teachers union pushes for salary boost

November 09, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

For more information and to register for the education summit, go to A Vision Shared's Web site at www.visionshared.com or contact facilitators at 304-293-5551.




MARTINSBURG, W.VA. - The West Virginia Education Association hasn't written the legislation yet, but the state's largest teachers union wants lawmakers next year to adopt a plan to increase the average teacher's salary to the national average and keep it there.

In the short term, the union wants salaries for starting teachers statewide to be raised to $35,000, which would amount to a $4,000 raise for Berkeley County's faculty. Starting pay for teachers who have no experience is $29,382. The county does pay teachers an additional stipend.

The union's proposals, outlined in a three-page statement released Thursday by President Charles Delauder, comes before an "education summit" to be held Saturday at the Charleston (W.Va.) Civic Center as part of A Vision Shared, an ongoing collaborative effort formed to tackle issues statewide.

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Berkeley County teachers and WVEA executive committee members Thomas Fletcher and Doris Tuckwiller-Wood said they would love for area residents to attend the summit at a press conference they held concerning their union's push for higher salaries.

Open to the public, the summit, which Delauder said his union would host as a member of A Vision Shared, is expected to focus on teacher compensation, the profession itself, community expectations of the school system, safety and health of classrooms, the teacher's voice in system and policy changes, according to A Vision Shared's Web site.

One of the underlying issues in the union's push to increase salaries is the increasing cost of health care, which he predicted will continue to "eat" into teacher's pay, Fletcher said.

A Berkeley Heights Elementary School teacher, Fletcher estimated one-third of the county's faculty filled vacancies left by instructors who left for higher paying jobs elsewhere.

Fletcher distributed statistics compiled by the National Education Association that show the gap between the average salaries of West Virginia teachers and those in neighboring states grew substantially wider between 2003 and 2006.

The national teacher salary average - $49,109 - is nearly $11,000 higher than West Virginia's average of $38,284, according to the NEA.

Coupled with looming retirements of thousands of teachers, Fletcher said he believes state leaders need to act quickly to increase salaries to avert a crisis, even amid uncertain economic conditions.

"You have to push ahead with the raise," Fletcher said. "I don't think there's any other answer."

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