RICHMOND, Va. — A Virginia senator wants to ensure K-12 educators and other school personnel earn competitive salaries.
Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D-Richmond) introduced Senate Bill 157, which advanced out of the Education and Health Committee and was sent to the Finance and Appropriations committee.
Social workers, nurses and other school personnel would see their pay increase as well, not just teachers, according to the bill. State law already requires a biennial review and increase of teacher pay, starting in 2023 and ending in 2028. That pay increase also requires some funding from local school boards.
The bill would require Virginia salaries to be at or above the national average, which is currently $63,645 for teachers according to a Business.org report using data from the National Center for Educational Statistics.
Former Gov. Ralph Northam stated in a December press release that his proposed budget includes pay raises that would raise a teacher’s salary above the national average when combined with local funds. Gov. Glenn Youngkin also agreed that teachers should be paid “as the professionals they are.”
“When it comes to the education budget, I’ve heard consistent bipartisan agreement from all of you that the budget you’ll pass, and that I’ll sign will reflect a record investment in education including a significant boost in teacher pay,” Youngkin stated in January.
Teachers in Virginia made approximately 10 percent less than the state average salary during the 2019–2020 school year. Virginia ranks last out of all states when comparing teacher salary to the state average salary according to the Business.org report.
Teaching vacancies increased by nearly 62 percent from 2018 to 2021. That resulted in an increase from 877 vacant positions to 1,420, according to an article published by the Virginia Mercury.
Hashmi worked in higher education for over two decades and saw the need for K-12 personnel to be better compensated. She recalled seeing one of her daughter’s middle school teachers working in a grocery store in the evening.
“We have folks who are working so hard, and yet we are not paying them enough so that they can comfortably live on one salary,” Hashmi said.
Hashmi said the pandemic’s effect on educators made writing the bill even more pressing.
“Teachers have been on the front line in so many ways, and I talked to many folks who are completely burned out,” Hashmi said. “They have felt unappreciated.”
Legislators raised concerns over how the bill would be funded.
Under existing law, certain public school employees’ pay would increase by five percent annually from the 2023 through 2028 school years. School boards match the pay increases “in accordance with each local school board’s composite index of local ability-to-pay.”
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