The reality of teacher pay increases

Published 9:14 am Saturday, February 2, 2019


The Commonwealth of Virginia now has a windfall revenue increase of $1.2 to 2.0 billion depending on who makes the report.This welcomed increased was generated primarily from three sources: Changes to the federal tax code, internet sales tax increases and higher-than-expected tax collections. Naturally, there are numerous groups who have ideas for spending it and are making their desires known.

Governor [Ralph] Northam has recommended the General Assembly allocate funds to give Virginia public school teachers a 5 percent pay increase. One statewide news organization published the following headline on Jan. 28: “A 5% pay raise for Virginia teachers included in the state budget.”

It is not that simple and is extraordinarily misleading.

There are two problems. One, if the General Assembly announces a 5 percent pay increase, the state would only fund 2.5 percent, and the local governments would provide the remaining 2.5 percent. Second, this is only for one budget period. All subsequent years would be fully funded by local school boards through their local governments.

Since many school divisions have been receiving the same local level funding for several years, granting a 2.5 percent increase as their share in year one commits them to 5 percent in all later years. With level local government funding support, the operating budgets would now have to take 5 percent from their operating line and move it to the salary line. This reduces classroom support for such things as supplies, equipment, transportation, and maintenance. The result is that the state makes a one budget term commitment, which translates to a long-term obligation at double the cost for the local school divisions.

There is no question that Virginia public school teachers need to be paid more. The National Education Association reports that Virginia teachers average $51,000 versus the US average of $60,000. These figures place Virginia in the bottom 50 percent.

Here is the bottom line: the Governor and General Assembly take credit for a 5 percent increase when they only pay half of it for one budget term. The localities are responsible for 2.5 percent the for the first time and the whole 5 percent for every year thereafter. The best solution is for the General Assembly to commit to teacher pay increases over a long period of time as localities must do. Then and only then can this situation be remedied.

Robert N. Holt

School Board Chairman

Franklin City

(I write this as my own opinion and not necessarily that of the Franklin School Board.)