AFT Leader Speaks Out About Devono Raise
Throw Teachers and Service Personnel Some Rope…and Fast!
By Judy Hale
I have always held the belief that a rising tide raises all ships. Typically, this means that I won’t fight any pay raise for administrators because it will raise everyone else’s salary in the end. Unfortunately, that has not been the case. In fact, if you use the tide analogy, it appears that those at the top are raising with the tide in their luxury yachts while teachers are buoys anchored to the bottom of the ocean with a very short rope. School service personnel and teachers are drowning while superintendents are sailing further and further away.
Teachers in West Virginia are ranked 47th in the nation in pay. It has been four years since their last pay raise. Yet, that isn’t the case for all educational employees. In fact, many of our county superintendents have received as much as a $20,000 a year salary raise in the past year. Of the 27 county superintendents whose contract does not end this year, 21 of them are scheduled to receive raises ranging from $1,000 to $23,000, making for an average pay raise of over $6,000.
Currently, the highest paid superintendent in the state makes $146,799.99 (Berkeley County) and that contract is set to rise to $169,939 in 2013-2014. The lowest paid superintendent makes $78,000 in Gilmer County. The average pay for all superintendents is $103,877. If you are looking to the state to set responsible salaries, then look at $110,000, which is the salary of every superintendent working in a state-controlled school system. Presently, 30 counties pay their superintendent over $100,000.
Adding insult to injury, many of these counties are cutting teachers and school service personnel at one board of education meeting and then handing out enormous pay raises to administrators at the very next meeting. Over 70 employees that work in board of education offices across the state making over $90,000 a year, with 15 earning over $100,000. Just this week in Monongalia County, Superintendent Devono had his contract extended 3 years. During these three years, his salary will go from $125,000 to $157,000. This occurred after the Monongalia County Board of Education recently laid off 70 teachers and service personnel who work directly with children.
It is time to focus education back to where it belongs, and that is with helping those who work directly with students on a daily basis. When I ask local board members why superintendents and other administrators are given such huge salaries, the reply often is that county systems “do not want to lose good leaders.” West Virginia is already losing good teachers and service employees because of poor salaries. For example, in Kanawha County, the board was unable to fill 27 elementary positions with highly-qualified teachers.
Highly-qualified, certified teachers are hard to find these days. From Berkeley to McDowell, Mason to Monongalia…the story is the same in many counties. West Virginia simply cannot compete with the salaries of educators in neighboring states. It is time to throw a rope to teachers and service personnel to lift them from the depths of this rising tide of inequity.
Judy Hale, a language arts teacher from Putnam County, is president of AFT-West Virginia. The AFT in West Virginia represents over 16,000 education employees in West Virginia and is the largest union in the state. Nationally, the AFT represents 1.5 million pre-K through 12th-grade teachers, paraprofessionals and other school support employees, higher education faculty, nurses and other healthcare workers, and state and local government employee.