RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Under a bill now advancing through the Virginia House, the state would re-evaluate its so-far unfulfilled commitment to raise teacher pay across the state above the national average.
Under current Virginia law, the state has made a non-binding commitment to pay its teachers more than the national average — a commitment it has not met.
Now, a bill has passed a key House sub-committee that would start a study of what metric should be used to set minimum teacher pay, and potentially make the commitment binding in the future.
The bill received support from the Virginia Superintendents Association, PTA, School Board Association and VEA, a statewide teachers’ union.
“We’re very fortunate and blessed as commonwealth to be one of the wealthiest states in the nation, and so we believe our teachers, staff, administrators…deserve to be paid at least at the national average as a beginning of this conversation,” Delegate Sam Rasoul (D – Roanoke), the bill’s sponsor, said.
The bill, which originally directly enshrined the commitment in law, was amended by Rasoul to initiate a study of the issue instead, to “determine what might be the best metric for Virginia.”
“We found out it’s not only where we rank as far as teacher pay relative to other states, but in fact what is even worse is that people with the same amount of education are leaving the profession to take higher paying jobs in other industries,” Rasoul said.
If the bill is passed, the Department of Education would study the impact of committing the state to pay, at minimum, “the median annual salary of a Virginia worker who is 25 years of age or older and has a bachelor’s degree” to all teachers and other school employees.
Under current law, the state only considers national average pay for teachers, which lawmakers said does not address attrition to other professions.
Dr. Alan Siebert, a Roanoke City Public Schools official, said that the teacher pay crisis was even worse when you removed wealthy enclaves like Northern Virginia from the state average.
“Our average teacher salaries are near the bottom nationally,” he said. “In Roanoke City Public Schools, controlled for inflation, teachers are taking home $1,500 less than they did ten years ago.”
The bill will now go before the full house for consideration, but commitments to higher teacher pay this year will have to originate in the House Appropriations Committee, where Republicans have committed to Governor Glenn Youngkin’s proposed slate of tax cuts.