RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A new report from the National Education Association (NEA) ranks Virginia as one of the worst states in the country for teacher salaries.
“When you don’t get compensated for the work, the time and the labor, the sweat that you put into something that you are indeed passionate about, it becomes more of a sacrifice,” Chesterfield teacher Sonia Smith said.
Smith says she’s frustrated — but not surprised — to learn that Virginia ranks 32nd in the country when it comes to teacher salaries. She says she’s seen a number of her colleagues throughout the years leave for other states.
“Or they leave the profession altogether and they go into the private sector,” Smith said.
Donald Wilms with the Chesterfield Education Association says when it comes to teacher pay in Virginia, the numbers don’t add up. The report from the NEA says teachers in the commonwealth make $7,900 less than the national average.
“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Wilms said. “We are one of the what, like the tenth wealthiest state in the country? What’s the point of being a wealthy state if you’ve got poor people who work for your government?”
Wilms says it’s affecting classrooms across the state.
“There is such a severe teacher shortage in Virginia,” he said. “Much more severe than it is in other parts of the country.”
Locally, Chesterfield County is spending more. Tuesday night the school board increased its budget by 4 percent from the prior year, including 2 percent raises for staff next year and for the next five years. It’s also committing to hiring more teachers to reduce teacher class sizes.
Still, Smith says she’s still concerned localities across the state aren’t doing enough to reverse what she calls a troubling trend.
“You want security, you don’t want to have to worry about things that are going on at home because you’re not able to make ends meet doing the thing you love most,” Smith said.
Click here to see the full report from the NEA.