Hancock BOE: Teachers pay needs increased

NEW CUMBERLAND – The Hancock County Board of Education passed a resolution Monday letting state officials know it believes a 1 percent raise for teachers isn’t enough.

The resolution asks the executive and legislative branches of the West Virginia state government to improve public employees compensation by providing for sufficient salary increases and find a permanent funding stream to fully fund the state’s Public Employees Insurance Agency.

The West Virginia Senate passed a bill this last Thursday to give teachers throughout the state pay raises of 1 percent annually for the next five years. The bill is expected to go next to the House of Delegates, and if approved there, would take effect July 1

The 1 percent raise, which comes out to around $400 per year for teachers, has been criticized by some state officials, teachers and teachers unions – all stating the raise not only isn’t enough of an increase, but could also result in a pay decrease.

Superintendent Tim Woodward, who presented the resolution to the board, strongly believes West Virginia teachers should have a much better rate than what they’re being offered.

While reading the resolution, he pointed out the state ranks third-lowest in the nation for teachers’ wages and reflects over 700 teacher vacancies in the state; that public employees would have to contribute more to insurance and see their wages decrease; that teachers with a bachelor’s degree wouldn’t be able to make $40,000 until after 13 years of service; and that the current state compensation system makes the school’s ability to recruit new teachers difficult.

“There’s no reason why West Virginia teachers should be ranked 48th in pay,” Woodward said. “There’s no reason why any employee should pay 13 years to reach $40,000 when they come out of $65,000 in debt. There’s no reason why all of our employees should have to pay more and more for PEIA when we have consistently said year after year that we were going to fund it as we supposed to, and we’re kicking the can down the road.”

Woodward said he spoke with board member Michelle Chappell about how the board should respond on the issue and suggested presenting the resolution.

The board unanimously passed the resolution without question or comments, resulting in a round of applause from the audience at the John D. Rockefeller IV Career Center.

The discussions of the 1 percent raise has resulted in numerous town hall meetings and demonstrations throughout the state, more recently and locally in Wellsburg in Brooke County this past weekend, where an informational picket was held.

Rumors had also swirled about the potential of teacher walkouts in the state, but Hancock County school union representative Melanie Donofe – who recently attended a town hall meeting in Flatwoods with the American Federation of Teachers and the West Virginia Department of Education – addressed the board and stated that no walkouts are being considered at this time.

“A strike is the last resort, and there will still be many activities and actions to where we will continue as we meet and assess the progress over our issues,” Donofe said. “At this point in time, I can tell you that professionals in Hancock County have no plans to walk out.”

Donofe said the only time a walkout would be taking place is if they hear from union leaders in Charleston stating the walkout would happen.

Woodward also stated if a walkout were to happen, he would call an emergency board meeting and come up with a plan to which those who walked out would not lose any pay, would not have to cross picket lines and that students will still be able to make up all instructional work in a timely manner.