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VA Falls in Teacher-Pay Rank

Virginia teachers now make less than their peers in 32 other states. Teachers say that forces them to take second or even third jobs. (Pixabay)
Virginia teachers now make less than their peers in 32 other states. Teachers say that forces them to take second or even third jobs. (Pixabay)
July 20, 2017

RICHMOND, Va. -- Virginia teachers make almost $8,000 a year less than the national average. And educators say many have to keep second or even third jobs to make ends meet.

The latest annual survey just released by the National Education Association found Virginia has fallen to 32nd in the country for educator pay. Steven Lavery teaches government, including advanced placement classes, in Pulaski County. He said even after fourteen years as a public school teacher, he still has to take work at summer camps to support his family.

"My wife is also an educator and she has had to take on pretty regular work as well,” Lavery said. “So it's a family of four, two people with advanced degrees, and we have to take on additional work."

The governor and General Assembly agreed to budget for a 2 percent statewide raise this year. Many lawmakers said a budget shortfall made anything more than that impossible.

The state Department of Education estimates Virginia may have as many as 4,000 unfilled teaching positions.

Critics of pay raises for teachers sometimes argue that educators don't deserve more because they only work nine months a year. But Lavery said that's no longer true. He said for years the summer break has been continually eroded by additional classes, class preparation and professional development.

"Traditionally, what would have been viewed as summer vacation is getting shorter and shorter,” he contended. "No teacher I know takes off three months and decides to go back to work the day before school. That's just ridiculous."

He said asking professional educators to shortchange their families is unfair to the teachers, and unwise for the impact it can have on students and their communities.

"Teachers who have to go wait tables in the evening, think about how a teacher can establish a professional rapport with a parent when that parent comes into a local eatery and sees the teacher having to wait tables,” Lavery said.

According to the NEA survey, Virginia teachers make $7,900 than the national average. Lavery said if you take out the wealthier school districts in Northern Virginia and around Richmond, the state average is even below that.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - VA