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March 24, 2016

Virginia Still Lags in Teacher Pay

The increased support for public education in the new state budget includes a small bump for teacher salaries. That is certainly welcome news for the thousands of teachers around the state. But it still leaves Virginia well below the nation in compensating teachers and at a competitive disadvantage when recruiting the best and brightest in the teaching profession.

Of the $865 million in additional support for preK-12 schools, the state only found enough for a meager 2 percent pay raise for teachers and school staff. Since 2008, the only other salary increases were 2 percent in 2014 and 1.5 percent in 2016.

The conference budget proposed by the House and Senate adds $134 million to support the state’s share of the raise starting in the first year of the 2017-2018 budget if the state meets its revenue target.

Teacher compensation in Virginia doesn’t stack up well against the nation. Average teacher salaries in the state were $49,800 in 2014 compared to $56,600 nationwide, according to a review by the legislature’s research arm. That’s 14 percent below the rest of the country. These last two raises don’t get us out of that hole.

Having competitive teacher salaries is critical for Virginia to provide the right incentive for successful students to seek careers in teaching and to recruit them to stay and teach in Virginia after they graduate. Yet, the state is one of the worst in the nation when it comes to the competitiveness of teacher salaries. A report published by Rutgers University earlier this month ranked Virginia 49th out of 50 states and DC (behind only Colorado and Arizona) in competitiveness of teacher salaries. This measure compares teacher salaries at both entry level and mid-career to those of other occupations in the state.

It’s not just common sense to want the best and the brightest joining the teaching profession in Virginia. Research suggests that attracting and retaining high-quality teachers can be the most effective strategy for improving student performance. And it can be among the most cost-effective strategies if it’s targeted to low-performing students. These were the findings from legislature’s research arm in a review of 200 research studies.

If we are serious about educating and training a world-class workforce – a goal laid out by the governor in his plan for the New Virginia Economy – there’s no better place to start than our teachers. It’s overdue.

–Chris Duncombe, Policy Analyst

The Commonwealth Institute

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