BY CARRIE HODOUSEK
CHARLESTON — West Virginia ranks near the bottom when it comes to teacher pay.
Public school teachers in the Mountain State are among the lowest paid in the nation with an average salary of $50,315 as of the 2021-22 school year. The new figures released by the National Education Association ranked West Virginia 50th out of 51 states, including the District of Columbia.
Last year, West Virginia ranked 49th.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said the low pay is having a direct impact on teacher shortages across the state.
“In 2018, we had 728 positions without a certified teacher. That’s increased to over 1,500 this year. I’m going to project that that goes up to about 1,700 or more this coming year,” Lee said on Wednesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
West Virginia fell behind neighboring states — Kentucky (40), Maryland (9), Pennsylvania (11), Ohio (17) and Virginia (22).
The average teacher salary in those neighboring states are: Kentucky ($54,574), Maryland ($75,766), Pennsylvania ($73,072), Ohio ($64,353) and Virginia ($61,367).
Lee said while cost of living plays a big role in those figures, West Virginia fails to pay teachers based on where they live in the state. He said teachers who live in the Eastern Panhandle near Maryland or in Morgantown near Pennsylvania generally get paid the same amount as a teacher living in southern West Virginia.
“If you’re in the Eastern Panhandle and you can drive to Maryland and make $25,000 more or drive to Pennsylvania and make $22,000 more, young teachers with debt and student loans are going to leave the state and go across the border,” Lee said.
The main reason West Virginia has dropped from 49th to 50th in the last year is that teachers have only received three raises in the last four years, Lee said.
“Other states are getting much more significant raises. If you look at Virginia, they increased from $58,506 to $61,367,” he said.
Teachers will receive a $2,300 pay bump beginning July 1 to cover premium increases from the state Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA), but Lee said it’s not enough to recruit more teachers to the profession. The raises were approved by the Legislature earlier this year.
“How did they sell that $2,300 raise? They sold it as that’s going to take care of the increase in the premiums from PEIA, so you’re actually not going to see that coming to your paycheck, which is going to make us fall further behind,” Lee said.
West Virginia is not that far off from larger states like Florida, where the average teacher salary is $51,230.
Mississippi pays its teachers $47,902 per year, the lowest salary in the country. Teachers in New York make the most per year with an average salary of $91,097.
The average starting teacher salary in West Virginia is $38,052, which ranks 43rd in the nation.
The national average salary was $66,745, which represented a 2% increase from the previous year.
Overall, teachers across the nation are making $3,644 less, on average, than they did 10 years ago due to inflation.