Thursday, August 25, 2005

Letter to the Editor Regarding Teacher Pay Raises

Today I submitted a letter to the editor of several newspapers across the state addressing proposed teacher pay raises, offering a condensed version of some of my earlier comments on this site. The text of my letter follows.


Next month, the West Virginia Legislature will convene in special session and will face seemingly incompatible demands for the abolition of the food tax and significant pay raises for public school employees.

These two priorities are both worthy of enactment and need not be mutually exclusive. While West Virginia’s ranking of 47th in teacher salaries is well-known, few people know that we are 12th in education spending per student.

According to the state’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, West Virginia’s taxpayers spend almost $10,000 per year per student for education. Since 1994, annual education spending has grown by 77%, from $1.3 billion to $2.3 billion, even though enrollment has declined by 11%. These trends do not change if a longer period is considered.

We cannot afford to continue the lethargic, tax-and-spend ways of the past that have ravaged our great state. Many proponents of teacher pay raises simply advocate spending more money for education although the pay raises they seek could be adequately funded with current spending levels.

While I do not believe the “quick fixes” commonly touted could provide all the required funds, the inefficiencies in our schools are aplenty. The $210 million cost estimate that has been estimated for the WVEA pay raise plan is just for the first three years; additional spending will be required indefinitely unless additional reforms are undertaken to more efficiently spend the very generous sums of taxpayers’ money appropriated to the public schools.

Several county school systems in the southern part of this state have been identified as spending millions of dollars in excessive Worker’s Compensation premiums because of their tolerance of rampant fraud. Logan County Schools alone have spent over $4 million for 237 cases over the last four years. A large number of the Logan County cases are employees who are “mysteriously” injured immediately before the school year ends and are able to return to work almost immediately after the start of the next school year, thereby drawing Worker’s Compensation during a period when most would have not been paid otherwise.

Next month’s special session should be special for all West Virginians. Let’s ax the food tax and also deliver a more efficient education system that better compensates its employees without requiring additional overall spending.