Hancock: 1 percent teachers’ raise isn’t enough

By STEVE RAPPACH

Staff writer

NEW CUMBERLAND — The Hancock County Board of Education passed a resolution Monday letting state officials know that members believe a 1 percent raise for teachers isn’t enough.

The resolution asks the state government to improve public employees’ compensation by providing sufficient salary increases and find a permanent funding stream for the state’s Public Employees Insurance Agency.

The West Virginia Senate passed a bill Thursday to give teachers throughout the state pay raises of 1 percent annually for the next five years. On Tuesday, the House of Delegates voted to increase teacher pay 2 percent.

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.

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

He noted the state ranks third-lowest in the nation for teachers’ wages and reflects more than 700 teacher vacancies in the state; public employees would have to contribute more to insurance and see their wages decrease; teachers with a bachelor’s degree wouldn’t be able to make $40,000 until after 13 years of service; and 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 (work) 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 are supposed to, and we’re kicking the can down the road.”

The discussions of the 1 percent raise has resulted in numerous townhall meetings and demonstrations throughout the state, more recently and locally in the Brooke County School District.

Rumors had swirled about the potential of teacher walkouts in the state, but Hancock County school union representative Melanie Donofe — who recently attended a townhall meeting in Flatwoods with the American Federation of Teachers and the West Virginia Department of Education — addressed the board and stated 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 take place would be if they hear from union leaders in Charleston stating a walkout would happen.

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

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