Hancock County superintendent joins the call for better teacher pay

NEW CUMBERLAND, W.Va. — The Hancock County school board Monday passed a resolution 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 state government to improve public employees compensation by providing for sufficient salary increases and finding a permanent funding stream to fully fund the state’s Public Employees Insurance Agency.

The state Senate passed a bill last week giving teachers 1 percent annual raises 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 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.

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, including 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 said 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 said if a walkout were to happen, he would come up with a plan in which those who walked out would not lose any pay, would not have to cross picket lines and that students would still be able to make up all instructional work in a timely manner.