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Teacher incentives first step in keeping good educators here

State legislators may have you believe that they are looking out for West Virginia school teachers, having granted them a $756 annual raise during this year's session. But the real truth is that the teachers' salaries have once again dropped in the national rankings. Despite three years of $756 pay hikes, the state's teachers have dropped to 39th in the nation.

We share the concerns expressed by state educators in their concern about retaining good teacher candidates to replace the increasing number of those becoming eligible to retire in the coming decade. Lack of effective teachers will, in our view, further compound both the educational and economic problems experienced for many years in West Virginia.

West Virginia's average beginning teacher salary ranks near the bottom of the heap among surrounding states. In this state, that figure is $23,000, compared to Virginia at $25,000 and Maryland and Pennsylvania at more than $28,000. Only Ohio is close to the same figure as West Virginia.

We are discussing the molders and shapers of future minds here -- certainly those young people who aspire to become physicians, lawyers, engineers, computer technologists, etc. It would surely seem that our legislators would seek to place a higher priority on the very core of the educational process -- the classroom teacher.

What prospective business executive would want to locate his company in the Mountain State if his children or the children of his colleagues and employees cannot expect and receive a proper education to prepare them for careers as we move full-swing into the 21st century?

Where the education of our children is concerned, we do not dare say it is too late to bring about conditions conducive to a healthy learning process. But to us, West Virginia can ill-afford to wait until its electorate decides to choose lawmakers who are truly concerned about the future of education. This will begin with more competitive salaries and benefits for teachers.

Robert F. Stealey

Telegram Editorial Board chairman

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