"The problem is, a lot of the raises that teachers have received in the past were completely offset by increases in PEIA. So you just keep going backwards instead of forward," the union president said. "This year, there was no increase in premiums, so a pay raise this time would actually be felt."
Campbell said improving teacher compensation would improve a slew of other areas in education where West Virginia continues to lag behind.
"We're definitely looking at compensation. We went through a lot with SB359 -- a lot of changes -- and the one thing we're not addressing is the fact that people aren't going into the profession. And if they do, they're not staying in West Virginia," she said. "If we're really serious about education and educating our future workforce, we have to invest in public education. We have to be serious in investing in the system and getting quality teachers to stay in West Virginia."
Most alarming, Campbell said, is West Virginia's problem with keeping young teachers in-state. She said that's because of a lack of competitive pay and a lack of help in the classroom, such as support staff and job-embedded professional development.
"Those things cost money," Campbell said. "Compensation is only a piece of it. The priority should be how are we going to keep educators in West Virginia -- quality educators that are going to deliver effective instruction to help our kids? I don't want to be 48th anymore."
Campbell and Lee said they're happy with the progress that's been made over the past year in education in West Virginia, pointing to more professional development and local control, but each said it is only the beginning.
"As teachers, we're never satisfied," Lee said. "I think we've made progress. I think that it's going to take a few years to really show an effect, and we still have a long way to go. We want to ensure that we can touch every student that we have, and we're never going to be satisfied until we do that."
Campbell said the culture of the education environment in the state has changed over the past year and that the Department of Education, the state Board of Education, the Legislature and teachers "are communicating in a way that they haven't in the past."
"I feel like, last year . . . no one was listening," Campbell said. "I think, over the course of a year, this legislation has really pushed people to work together. I think there's a new climate that brings stakeholders together and that people are starting to recognize that you can't have effective instruction without collaboration. At least now we're acknowledging that.
"Now that we all understand it, what are we going to do about it?"
Reach Mackenzie Mays at mackenzie.m...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-4814.