Teachers in the state remain some of the worst-paid in the country. We look at how different candidates for governor plan to address that.
Virginia has been among the worst-paying states for teachers for years. Democrats in the General Assembly and Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam finally got teachers a 5% raise in pay in June, but whoever is elected governor in November will set the course on whether educator salaries get any closer to the national average in the next three years.
Democratic governor candidate Terry McAuliffe hit new records for investments in Virginia education in 2016 and 2017 when he was governor. This time around, McAuliffe has released a five-part plan for education reform that includes increasing teacher pay. He has also committed to fully funding the state’s Education Department’s “standards of quality,” which aim to support teacher recruitment and retention and expand hiring of school support staff, among other goals.
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In contrast, Glenn Youngkin, the Republican nominee for governor, lacks a comprehensive plan for education policy. During the primary he proposed eliminating the state’s income tax, which would decimate state revenues and funding for public schools. After criticism he backtracked and introduced a plan to freeze the property tax payments that are the primary way public schools are funded. This would cause local revenues to decline each year due to inflation, which could affect school funding. And it doesn’t explain how his potential administration would manage to increase teacher pay at the same time.
A third candidate, Princess Blanding, is a former teacher and assistant principal at Virginia public schools. She says increasing teacher pay is an equity issue, and calls for annual raises for teachers. That would be funded by pooling county taxes and tying funding to the number of students at a school, instead of the current property tax system.
Why Should We Raise Teacher Pay?
We know Virginia is one of the worst states in the country for teacher salaries, but why is it so important to pay teachers more?
According to Bayliss Fiddiman, an education policy expert at the left-leaning Center for American Progress, higher-paid teachers lead to better-educated students. Baylis argues in a paper that the frequent protests and walk-outs among teachers in the past five years “highlight that teacher salary is likely a key component to overall job satisfaction.” And satisfied teachers are often more engaged with their students.
Another challenge is schools often have to pick between giving existing teachers raises and hiring additional, needed staff.
“[Virginia] would have to make an assessment based upon their current needs, but if you have a district full of great teachers and they’re doing a great job with their students–they know them well–give them the resources that they need to stay,” said Fiddiman in an interview with Dogwood. “They can continue to do a great job and continue to develop those relationships that they already have with the students, rather than paying for a brand new workforce.”
Ultimately, Fiddiman likened the difficulty of raising teacher pay to a “chicken-and-egg situation. We have a public image issue that people don’t necessarily see teachers and educators as the professionals that they are and don’t pay them as the professionals that they are.”
Teachers having lower incomes, Fiddiman said, furthers the perception of teaching as a charitable, but not respectable, job: “We’re not paying teachers what they deserve, and that’s part of the perception.”
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