West Virginia’s teachers’ union warns that new proposed tax cuts will further shrink school budgets and drive more educators out of the profession. A crippling number of vacancies are straining school operations, and the number of non-certified teachers that have left their jobs has doubled since 2018, according to the state’s Department of Education.
Dale Lee, West Virginia Education Association President, said he welcomes the governor’s 5% pay raise for state employees, but added it is not enough to reverse the worsening teacher shortage in public schools.
“We have over 1,500 classrooms across the state of West Virginia without a certified teacher in it,” Lee said. “We’re doing harm to kids. We have to address that issue.”
Last week, the governor proposed slashing income taxes by 50%, pointing to the state’s budget surplus and said residents’ paychecks would see a boost. But the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy said one in every six dollars in tax cuts would go to the wealthiest households, while most communities would pay the price in reduced public services.
A recent National Education Association survey found more than half of teachers nationwide say they will likely leave the profession earlier than they had planned. Lee said that will also be the case in West Virginia without a significant boost in teacher pay.
NEA data show West Virginia ranks at the very bottom in teacher salaries nationally. Lee said a strong core of educators in workforce helps ensure more West Virginia students are prepared for college or vocational training.
“This legislature has to make a commitment to educators that that 1,500 number is going to reduce,” he said.
Research shows that elementary school children nationwide are beginning to catch up from pandemic-related learning losses, but math and reading achievement levels among middle-school and high-school students continue to lag.