RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — Over the weekend, the Virginia House of Delegates and Senate came to a budget agreement, included was a 5% raise for educators.
The raises will cost $153.6 million.
It’s a much-needed boost, according to many lawmakers.
“The reason I’m so passionate about that particular aspect of teacher’s salaries is we are experiencing a critical teacher shortage in Virginia,” explained Del. Martha Mugler (D-Hampton), who represents York County, Poquoson and Hampton for Virginia’s 91st House of Delegates District. “Part of the reason for that is that we have neighboring states like Pennsylvania, Maryland and even Washington D.C. where the salaries are even $20,000 above what our average salaries are in Virginia.”
Average teacher pay in Virginia comes to $52,000 a year. It’s notably below the national average of $60,477.
“It makes it really really difficult for us to compete with our neighboring states for the best and the brightest teachers,” said Mugler. “And that’s what we want for Virginia right, we want the best and the brightest for our classrooms and teaching our children.”
According to Mugler, raising educator salaries received bipartisan support, especially after such a tough year.
While happy with the progress, Mugler says it’s only a step in the right direction. She ultimately wants to see teacher salaries at or above the national average.
“This is an issue that I’ll continue to work on. It’s a very bold initiative but I think it’s worth it for us to continue that fight. I’m really encouraged by the 5% raise that is currently in the budget. It’s still not exactly where I want it to be but I’m very, very pleased with the number we have out before the governor.”
Because of the complicated way education funding works, lawmakers left some flexibility for localities worried about the cost of the raises. The state determines how many educators and staff are needed by a “standard of quality” system. Lawmakers say those numbers aren’t always realistic.
This means certain localities may struggle financially to give everyone 5% raises. Those discrepancies will be worked out between local school boards and city councils.