Teaching Profession

Embarrassment—or Full Disclosure?

By Jessica L. Tonn — March 06, 2007 1 min read
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Few workers would want to have their salary information posted online. But some teachers in West Virginia say it might not be that bad.

“It couldn’t really hurt us, if people see how much we make,” said Jennifer Wood, a spokeswoman for the 7,000-member AFT-West Virginia, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, which is lobbying the state legislature to raise teacher pay.

Local newspapers have printed teachers’ names and salaries in the past, and talk of posting that information online has surfaced since State Auditor Glen B. Gainer III last month began listing the names and salaries of 65,000 state employees. The auditor’s Web site had more than a million hits within the first few days that the information was posted, according to Justin Southern, a spokesman for Mr. Gainer’s office.

But the list did not include teachers because they are considered county, rather than state, employees.

While Ms. Wood acknowledged that some teachers might feel uncomfortable if their salary information eventually is posted, she said that “a lot of teachers don’t have a problem with it because you can get [the information] already.”

Compared with state employees’ salaries, teachers’ salaries can be calculated easily, according to David Haney, the executive director of the West Virginia Education Association, a 17,000-member affiliate of the National Education Association. The public can determine a teacher’s pay by looking at county salary schedules, which are based on educational attainment and years worked, he said.

And while some teachers may be reluctant to see their salaries posted, it might not hurt their cause.

West Virginia ranks 36th in the nation for average teacher pay and 40th for beginning-teacher salaries, according to the Education Counts database, produced by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center.

Union officials argue that a pay increase would slow the flow of teachers leaving for higher-paying jobs in the private sector or leaving the state to teach elsewhere.

For example, teachers in the state’s eastern panhandle can drive across the border and make up to $20,000 more per year teaching in northern Virginia than in West Virginia, according to both Mr. Haney and Ms. Wood.

“We’re talking about a 15-minute commute,” she said.

A version of this article appeared in the March 07, 2007 edition of Education Week

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