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Teachers' Unions Push for Pay Raises

By: Jennifer Rizzi Email
By: Jennifer Rizzi Email

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Lisa Austin may teach elementary students, but her job isn't child's play.

"After I get home, I still have to work on lesson plans," she said. "It's like 'boom, boom, boom.'"

Austin loves teaching special education at Ruthlawn Elementary School. But she says the pay for teachers in West Virginia drives many people away from the profession.

"it needs to be higher," she said.

The West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) predicts a teacher drought within the next few years.

Leaders say 60 percent of in-state teachers are getting ready to retire, and low salaries will make it hard to find and keep replacements.

"More than half of our counties are border counties," President Dale Lee said. "You can drive 15-30 minutes and make anywhere from $5,000-$20,000 more in the classroom."

State Senator Brooks McCabe (D-Kanawha) says thousands of teachers and other public service workers across the state deserve a raise.

But he says balancing the books to accommodate them is no easy process.

"It's how we look at the budget, how we manage those funds, and ultimately realign government," he said. "At the end of the day, we may need less employees and less programs."

Austin says she hopes teachers are high on the priority list.

"We're going to be looking for teachers ... begging for teachers," she said.

Lee says the average starting salary for teachers in West Virginia is about $31,000. He says West Virginia ranks 48th in the nation for teacher pay.

Lawmakers say it could take several years before they find the means to make changes.

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