Less than one-third of college graduates in the state who received a degree in education last year are now employed in the state's schools.
"It isn't that we have a shortage of teachers graduating in our state -- we have a shortage of graduates willing to stay in our state and work," he said. "We are an exporter of education graduates to other states while positions in our own state remain unfilled."
For example, Raleigh County Schools began the year with 74 teacher vacancies, Lee said.
Leslie Boyd, an elementary teacher in Jefferson County, says she also works as a waitress for supplemental income, in addition to tutoring and a summer job.
"I love this state so much; however, it's very difficult to teach here. ... I don't know how long I'll stay," Boyd said.
Robert Martin is a retired high school teacher who had taught in Greenbrier County. He says that after teaching in West Virginia for more than a decade, he took a job at a school in Virginia that paid $6,000 more.
This isn't the first time teachers in West Virginia have fought for higher pay.
The teachers went on strike in 1990. At the time, their pay ranked 49th in the country.
The strike was successful, and then-Gov. Gaston Caperton approved a multiyear commitment to improving teachers' salaries to a competitive level.
"I see a frustration level of teachers out there that's higher than ever before," Lee said. "Our goal here is to make our Legislature, our community, our parents, aware of what's going on ... and to ensure that we are doing what we can to provide the best-quality education for all our students."
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.