At a time of major staffing shortages, we need prudent investments that improve retention and real investment in the education workforce. A reasonable starting place would be proposals that get Virginia educators to the national teacher pay average and pay our school support staff a livable wage.
According to the most recent state-by-state comparison, Virginia’s average teacher salary is $6,787 below the national average, which ranks our state 25 nationally. In contrast, Virginia continually ranks among the richer states in the country, recently ranking 12 among the states in per capita personal income.
Teachers in Virginia are paid an average of 67 cents for each dollar paid to their similarly educated peers in other professions. This is the third largest teacher pay penalty in the country. State funding is currently in place for a five percent salary increase for SOQ-funded positions this year and next. (And based on the increase in average salaries over 2021-22 levels, it looks as though many divisions are participating in the compensation incentive this year.) Unfortunately, we are so far behind that even this potential 10.25% increase (assuming full participation by divisions in both years) is unlikely to get Virginia’s average teacher salary to the national average. In fact, VEA estimates an additional six percent increase will be needed in the second year of the biennium (for a total increase in FY24 of 11%) to achieve that goal.
The good news is that the state is currently in an excellent position to make much-needed consequential improvements to teacher salaries (as well as other areas of school funding), having closed out FY22 with a record $1.9 billion surplus and now anticipating up to $3.6 billion in excess resources this fiscal year. State policymakers must protect and enhance the ability of local governments to pay their share of school costs, including the local share of teacher pay increases. Fully lifting the school staff support cap would be a major step to assist local school divisions to meet this goal.