Teaching Profession

West Virginia Teachers’ Pension Plan Revised—Yet Again

By Christina A. Samuels — March 25, 2008 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

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


Special Education Webinar Reading, Dyslexia, and Equity: Best Practices for Addressing a Threefold Challenge
Learn about proven strategies for instruction and intervention that support students with dyslexia.
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.
College & Workforce Readiness Webinar
The School to Workforce Gap: How Are Schools Setting Students Up For Life & Lifestyle Success?
Hear from education and business leaders on how schools are preparing students for their leap into the workforce.
Content provided by Find Your Grind
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.
School & District Management Webinar
The Key to Better Learning: Indoor Air Quality
Learn about the importance of improved indoor air quality in schools, and how to pick the right solutions for educators, students, and staff.
Content provided by Delos

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 Opinion Linda Darling-Hammond Wins International Prize for Education Research
The recipient of the 2022 Yidan Prize talks about the divide between research and policy, teacher professional development, and equity.
7 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Teaching Profession Q&A How This Teacher Builds Relationships, Has Fun, and Makes Money on TikTok
Joe Harmon is one of the growing number of teachers who is making funny videos about classroom life—and monetizing them.
7 min read
Joe Harmon, a social studies teacher in Pennsylvania, makes satirical TikTok videos poking fun at what happens in his classroom.
Joe Harmon, a social studies teacher in Pennsylvania, makes satirical TikTok videos poking fun at what happens in his classroom.
Via @dr.harmon on TikTok
Teaching Profession What the Research Says Later School Start Times Could Help Teachers, Too
Most discussion of school start times centers on benefits to late-sleeping adolescents, but a new study looks at the effects on teachers.
3 min read
Silhouette of a woman hanging from the hour arm of a clock set at 9.
DigitalVision Vectors
Teaching Profession 'Does Anyone Else Cry After Work?': Teacher Reddit Is the Unfiltered Voice of Educators
Amid rising pressures, teachers take to the platform to find solace, build solidarity, and most of all—vent.
6 min read
An opened laptop displaying a teacher reddit website, overlayed by the following 5 headlines: My student threatened to shoot up the school, so I resigned. Everyone is mad at me. I can't afford to be a teacher anymore. Are students getting more openly 'mean' to teachers? 47 kindergartners in my classroom this year. That's it. That's the post. Quiet quitting is happening at my school.
Illustration by Gina Tomko/Education Week and iStock/Getty