Teacher Pay, Pensions Among Issues in W.Va.
The following offers highlights of the recent legislative session. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 2006 data reported by state officials for public elementary and secondary schools. The figures for precollegiate education spending do not include federal flow-through funds, unless noted.
Teachers in West Virginia will see a 3.5 percent salary increase under the $10 billion budget bill approved by state lawmakers, who wrapped up business March 10. About $1.79 billion of the budget is for K-12 public education, up from the $1.71 billion allotted last year.
The legislature also set aside about $384 million for unfunded liabilities in the teachers’ retirement system, which makes it 30 percent funded. The retirement system provides defined benefits to retired teachers, but was closed to new employees in 1991 after it built up a multibillion-dollar unfunded liability. Teachers hired since then have been enrolled in a defined-contribution plan.
The budget approved by lawmakers also appropriated $2.4 million to hire more school nurses, and about $200,000 was allocated for a pilot program called the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which seeks to identify the skills students need to succeed in the future.
Despite the budget and salary-increase approvals, West Virginia teachers participated in a one-day walkout March 14. ("Teachers in One-Quarter of W.Va. Districts Walk Out," March 21, 2007.)
“Frustration among education employees has reached a boiling point,” Charles Delauder, the president of the West Virginia Education Association, said in a statement. “We have stated on many occasions that 3.5 percent is not enough and we have consistently carried that message to the legislature.” The association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, had sought a 6 percent raise.
Vol. 26, Issue 32, Page 24