CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The West Virginia Education Association is pushing for higher salaries for teachers in order to compete with surrounding states that, on average, offer more money.
Leaders with the teachers union launched the competitive-salary campaign Monday, saying West Virginia is unable to recruit and retain qualified teachers because of poor pay.
West Virginia's average pay for teachers -- about $45,000 annually -- is ranked 48th in the country when it comes to average teacher compensation.
Ten years ago, West Virginia was ranked 38th.
"We've tried many reforms, trends and tricks to improve public education, but have devoted little to the employees that fuel the learning in our public schools," WVEA President Dale Lee said during a news conference Monday.
Many new teachers move out of state or remain residents of West Virginia and commute to surrounding states in order to receive more money, Lee said.
In Ohio, teachers are paid about $57,000 on average, while teachers in Virginia are paid about $49,000 and teachers in Pennsylvania receive more than $60,000.
The national average is about $55,000.
Lee said the WVEA does not have a particular dollar amount in mind right now for an ideal salary, but he said every $1,000 increase in salary will cost the state about $26.4 million.
"Knowing that gives us a gauge to go to [the Legislature] and say, 'Let's look at a multiyear package and a long-range goal to get us to a competitive rate,'" he said. "Anything over there at the Capitol that they make a priority ... they find the funds available. This is a matter of priority in the state. Our kids are at a crisis."