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$5,000 Salary Raise for Teachers Nears Passage in West Virginia

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West Virginia lawmakers were struggling late last week with the final details of a plan to raise teacher salaries by $5,000 over the next three years.

As they pushed to conclude a special session devoted primarily to education, legislators also were poised to pass measures that would raise an additional $40 million in new taxes and give teachers a greater say in how their schools are run.

The session had been convened by Gov. Gaston Caperton, who had pledged in the spring to call a special session as part of an agreement to end a 12-day, statewide teachers' strike. Union leaders had called the strike to demand a raise in the average teacher's salary, which at a little less than $22,000 ranks the state 49th in the nation. They also were seeking a commitment from state political leaders to make education a higher priority in the state. (See Education Week, March 28, 1990.)

Fulfilling another pledge to the teachers, the Governor this summer held a statewide education summit and appointed a 20-member task force to develop educational goals for the state. The panel's report was issued last month, and the Governor incorporated much of what members outlined into his legislative proposal.

As of late last week, legislators appeared to have accepted most of that agenda.

Under the plan, the $5,000 pay raise for teachers would be phased in over three years: $2,000 immediately, $1,000 next year, and $2,000 during the third year. Teachers who have a master's degree in the subject area in which they are certified to teach would earn an additional $1,000, starting in the third year.

The revenue-raising measures being considered by the legislature included a higher tax on the production and sale of electricity, which is expected to bring in an additional $28 million, and an alternative-minimum tax on coal severance, which is projected to net $5 million through the end of the year.

The legislature was also on the verge of giving Mr. Caperton the authority to raise an additional $100 million through bond issues over the next two years.

Among the education reforms that were nearing final approval were proposals to create a "faculty senate" in each school to advise principals, establish an alternative-certification program for teachers, assign mentor teachers to all first-year teachers, and allot $200 per teacher for school supplies.

Officials of the state's teachers' unions said they were pleased with the way the legislature was moving.

"This is really historic for West Virginia," said Jackie Goodwin, the director of communications for the West Virginia Education Association.--EF

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