Teacher pay raise bill moves to House floor

CHARLESTON — The House Finance Committee swiftly passed a standalone pay raise bill that includes teachers and school service personnel.

Educators, who were still on strike over a separate omnibus education bill, packed the committee room.

Discussion of the bill lasted only a few minutes. The bill passed on a voice vote with only one ‘no’ heard. The bill now goes to the House floor.

“Let’s support this and let’s move forward and let’s put the teachers back to work,” said Delegate Doug Skaff, D-Kanawha.

There is also a public hearing set for 8 a.m. Friday on the bill. It was requested by Kathie Crouse, an advocate for homeschoolers.

The estimated cost for the pay raises, according to the State Department of Education, is $67.7 million.

The bill that was passed by House Finance also includes raises for State Police personnel, whose pay scales are in state code. The estimated cost of the raise for State Police is $1,821,518.

Other promised raises for state employees would be handled through the regular budget process instead of in a specific bill.

The movement on the pay raise bill came a day after the collapse of a broader education bill in the House of Delegates. That one wrapped the pay raises with charter schools, education savings accounts, funding for counselors, more local control of levy rates, pay flexibility for counties with particular hiring needs and more.

Gov Jim Justice on Tuesday afternoon said he is glad that version of the bill is done and said lawmakers should consider the pay raise he first proposed.

“Today, right now, I’m calling the legislators to pass my pay raise bill, the bill I sent up, the clean bill,” Justice said. “I’m calling upon them to do that now. Do that right now. I think there’s a real opportunity to move forward here.”

Delegates indicate the pay raise bill probably won’t have a problem passing that house.

But it’s less clear what would happen in the Senate.

Justice acknowledged he had not received indication from senators that they would consider the pay raise bill by itself.

“No, I have not,” he said.

Speaking on MetroNews’ “Talkline,” Senate President Mitch Carmichael reiterated commitment to a pay raise.

“We’ll evaluate it when it comes over here,” he said. “We’re on record supporting a pay raise.”

He added, “We’ve never taken that position that it’s all or nothing. We’re very confident there will be a pay raise bill. We’re going to do what we have to do to get a pay raise.”