PARKERSBURG - A local teacher representative is cheering a move by state legislators to give an across-the-board pay raise to educators.
The West Virginia Senate Wednesday approved a $837 pay increase for teachers and a two-percent increase for service personnel. The bill now moves on to the West Virginia House of Delegates.
Millie Stoneking, president of the Wood County Education Association, said the bill is part of a statewide push to give teachers more competitive salaries.
"The WVEA (West Virginia Education Association) had a salary campaign which started in August," she said. "The goal was to get a multi-year salary increase."
The bill sets a goal to increase the state's minimum salary for entry-level teachers to $43,000 by 2019. If approved by the House, Senate Bill 391 will raise the starting teacher salary to $32,512.
Sen. Bob Plymale, a Democrat from Wayne County and the education chair, said the bill originally proposed a 2 percent raise. The amount was changed to a $1,000 across-the-board pay raise in an attempt to increase new teacher salaries as much as possible.
He said the raise was cut to $837 in an effort to stay within the amount budgeted for teacher pay.
"I believe this bill does what we are trying to do long term, which is raise starting salaries to the highest possible," he said.
Stoneking said while the increase is not as high as requested, it is still a positive step forward.
"We did get an increase, possibly not what we wanted, but it is still an increase," she said. "The WVEA is still going to work on getting competitive salaries for teachers."
Stoneking said much of the credit goes to supporters who urged legislative representatives to approve the pay increase.
Greg Merritt, president of the Wood County American Federation of Teachers, could not be immediately reached for comment.
Senators Mitch Carmichael and Brooks McCabe voted against the bill.
McCabe said he believes teachers and other state employees deserve raises but he's concerned about voting for any raises while the state budget is not yet balanced.
"In the future, when we are posed with salary increases, I ask the Senate to address where the money is coming from. Do we have the money to spend, and, most importantly, can we improve the efficiency and effectiveness? We need to redefine and rework education in a way that we can live within our means," said McCabe.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.