Northam pitches additional pay raise for teachers

Virginia teachers could see their salaries increase by 5 percent starting July 1 if the General Assembly passes budget amendments proposed by Gov. Ralph Northam.

In a statement to the press last December, Northam proposed increasing public school funding in the commonwealth by an additional $268.7 million for the 2019-20 fiscal year. This plan includes $88 million reserved for a 2 percent pay increase for teachers.

This would be on top of a 3 percent increase already approved by the General Assembly last year set to take effect July 1. If the General Assembly approves Northam’s proposed teacher pay increase, it will be the largest raise in a single year in more than 15 years.

According to Northam, his proposed pay increase would help attract and retain teachers and make Virginia teacher's salaries more competitive with other states.

“Every child in the commonwealth should have access to a world-class education — that can’t happen if Virginia is unable to compete with other states on attracting and retaining the best teaching talent,” Northam said. “Raising teacher pay is one step to securing the quality of our K-12 education system for years to come.”

With an average public school teacher salary of $50,620, Virginia was ranked No. 30 in the country in 2016-17, according to the Virginia Department of Education’s report on teacher salaries from 2016-17.

Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools paid teachers $54,576 on average in fiscal year 2017, according to that same report from the Virginia Department of Education. That was the highest salary among divisions in the Peninsula region. Comparatively, the average teacher salary for the same year in York County was $53,339, and $46,356 in New Kent County.

Conversely, a 2016 study from The Crim Dell Group showed W-JCC schools offered the lowest starting salary for new teachers in the region at $40,905, compared to $42,261 in York County. Figures for New Kent weren’t available.

Local officials, including Dr. Olwen E. Herron, superintendent of Williamsburg-James City County Public Schools, expressed optimism for the governor's proposal.

“Meeting the instructional needs of our students and providing competitive compensation for our talented employees are at the heart of all W-JCC budget conversations,” Herron said. “Therefore, we are encouraged to see the renewed commitment to funding K-12 public education that is included in the governor’s budget proposal.”

Herron added this optimism comes with the acknowledgement that there is still a long road ahead before the governor's budget amendments are voted on when the General Assembly meets, and what form they will take once they do.

She points out that aside from the statewide teacher's raise, the portion of the increase W-JCC stands to gain may be smaller than most.

"It is probable that the budget passed by the General Assembly will differ from the Governor’s plan, and the formula used to calculate how much each school division receives is based on the localities’ ability to fund their own schools," Herron said. "Economically strong communities such as ours get a smaller piece of the state funding pie. Fortunately, our city and county leaders have demonstrated their support for our high-performing schools and exemplary staff by fully funding our budget request last year.”

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