Teaching Profession

West Virginia Teachers’ Pension Plan Revised—Yet Again

By Christina A. Samuels — March 25, 2008 2 min read

After years of revisions and legal wrangling over West Virginia’s financially strapped teacher-retirement system, state lawmakers have finally come up with a plan they hope will settle the matter.

Now it’s up to the teachers.

The latest pension proposal, approved in the legislature’s recently concluded special session, offers teachers a chance to move from a 401(k)-style defined-contribution retirement system to a defined-benefit program that would give teachers a guaranteed pension upon retirement.

If at least 65 percent of the teachers in the retirement system approve, employees in the existing defined-contribution program will be able to move their invested money back to the more traditional pension program that had been in place until 1991.

See Also

See other stories on education issues in West Virginia. See data on West Virginia’s public school system.

Teachers who prefer to stay with the 401(k)-style plan will be able to do so, but they will not have a chance to switch later. New teachers are allowed only into the guaranteed-pension, or defined-benefit, plan.

“This bill isn’t exactly the way we would have liked to have seen it, but it’s a bill that provides a program so that people can transfer back to the defined-benefit plan,” said David Haney, the executive director of the 17,000-member West Virginia Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.

Years of Changes

The bill is the latest in a complicated series of changes made by the state in the hope of relieving its problems with a substantially underfunded pension program. According to a recent analysis of pension programs conducted by the Pew Center on the States, West Virginia has the lowest proportion of funded liabilities of any state pension program, at 55 percent.

Gov. Joe Manchin III

23 Democrats
11 Republicans

74 Democrats
26 Republicans


For decades, teachers in the state retired with a pension that would pay them a guaranteed amount. But in 1991, the state changed to a defined-contribution approach that would require teachers to invest a certain percentage of their income toward retirement expenses, with the state also contributing some.

Teachers complained, however, about a lack of investment choices in the defined-contribution system and investment guidance.

In 2005, the state voted to do away with the defined-contribution system and return teachers to the older pension plan. But some employees who were doing well under the 401(k)-style program sued successfully to stop the switch, though employees who were hired after 2005 continue to have the defined-benefit pension.

The latest change, approved March 16 in a special session of the legislature, is a compromise among the House, the Senate, and the governor’s office, said Lara Ramsburg, the spokeswoman for Gov. Joe Manchin III, a Democrat. But if fewer than 65 percent of the teachers vote for a change, the two systems will remain as they are.

In its regular session, which wrapped up just prior to the special session, the legislature approved funding education at $1.8 billion for fiscal 2009, up 2.2 percent from fiscal 2008.

The legislature also approved and the governor signed a $1,600 raise for teachers. According to the NEA, the average teacher salary in West Virginia is $38,604, which is lower than the average salaries in all five states that border West Virginia: Kentucky, Maryland, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.

In other action, the lawmakers passed an anti-bullying bill that requires schools to form a panel of teachers, administrators, and parents to address disruptive acts by students.

Related Tags:

Capitol Recap offers highlights of the legislative sessions. Precollegiate enrollment figures are based on fall 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.
A version of this article appeared in the March 26, 2008 edition of Education Week


School & District Management Live Event Education Week Leadership Symposium
Education Week's Premier Leadership Event for K12 School & District Leaders.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Law & Courts Webinar
The Future of Criminal Justice Reform: A Sphere Education Initiative Conversation
America’s criminal justice system is in crisis and calls for reform are dominating the national debate. Join Cato’s Sphere Education Initiative and Education Week for a webinar on criminal justice and policing featuring the nation’s
Content provided by Cato Institute
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
Equity, Care and Connection: New SEL Tools and Practices to Support Students and Adults
As school districts plan to welcome students back into buildings for the upcoming school year, this is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and our systems to build a
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession 4 Ways Districts Are Giving Teachers More Flexibility in Their Jobs
After a year-plus of pandemic schooling, some experts are seeing momentum for district leaders to reimagine what teaching can look like.
11 min read
Teacher working at home in front of camera.
Teaching Profession New Teaching Jobs May Emerge With Continued Demand for Virtual Learning
As school districts plan for online learning to continue beyond the pandemic, they'll need teachers to staff those virtual classrooms.
4 min read
Teaching Profession Opinion It's Teacher Appreciation Week. Flowers? Mugs? We're Looking for Something More
This year, teachers were hailed as heroes then denounced as obstructionists, say seven State Teachers of the Year. Here’s what they need.
Owen Bondono, Alisa Cooper de Uribe, Amanda Hargreaves, Kimberly Hee Stock, Justin Johnson, Susan Rosato & Jennifer Wolfe
4 min read
Illustration of a mug.
Collage by Laura Baker and Elizabeth Rich/Education Week (Image sources: mustafahacalaki/DigitalVisionVectors and E+)
Teaching Profession Teacher Salaries Are Increasing. See How Your State Compares
The National Education Association warns that some of the progress in teacher pay could be jeopardized by the pandemic.
2 min read
Teacher Salary Rankings 04262021 943331302
iStock/Getty Images Plus