Virginia teacher pay falls further behind the national average

Posted at 12:22 PM, May 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-08 12:22:28-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Monday marks the beginning of National Teacher Appreciation Week, and a new study from the National Education Association shows Virginia's teacher pay is falling behind the rest of the country.

According to the study, Virginia’s estimated average teacher salary is $62,104 — and that's $6,365 below the estimated national average.

Another study from the Economic Policy Institute shows Virginia has the third least competitive teacher pay in the country when compared to other fields that require a similar level of education.

"Unfortunately, not surprising," said Christine Melendez, president of the Chesterfield Education Association. She's also taught in the district for eight years.

“I'm earning about $50,000," Melendez explained. "And that does sound great until you take into account everything we need to pay for, the taxes that get taken out, the health insurance that continues to increase. I have never been able to live on my own in an apartment.”

"You know, we can get an apple from the local grocery store," said Dr. James Fedderman, president of the Virginia Education Association. "Educators are far greater than that."

Both Fedderman and Melendez say paying teachers a competitive wage is how they would like to see teachers celebrated this week.

"They're truly in the trenches every day working, advocating for our students and their families and the communities in which they live," Fedderman noted.

Melendez said while collective bargaining is legal in Virginia, school districts still have to get approval from their school boards in order to negotiate their own contracts. It’s a move the City of Richmond has made, but many others, including Chesterfield County are not there yet.

"Teachers earn 25% more on average in states with collective bargaining," she recalled. "Support staff earn 17% more."

In addition, they would like to see Virginia continue with its proposed House and Senate budgets, which include 2% raises for support staff — but the Virginia Education Association said Governor Glenn Youngkin's proposed budget does not include those increases.

"Teachers are making $3,644, 6.4% less than they did 10 years ago," stated Fedderman when referencing how inflation is impacting salaries.

Youngkin's team is responding to the Education Association study sending CBS 6 a statement that reads, "Governor Youngkin signed a 10% pay increase for teachers all across the Commonwealth, directed VDOE to pay bonuses to teachers in hard-to-staff positions, and proposed significant funding for retention and merit bonuses honoring Virginia's teachers. He also directed $10 million towards teacher recruitment and retention initiatives, including teacher apprenticeship programs, paid internships, HBCU teacher residency programs, teacher tuition assistance, hiring bonuses, and retention bonuses.”

"We've got to play catch up, and the investments that they give us right now, we're thankful, it's just not enough," said Fedderman.

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