BERKELEY COUNTY, W.Va. - Teachers salaries have been a concern in West Virginia for years, and now a teachers' union leader says its time to take action.
Ten years and going strong; that's how long Wayne Bennett has been teaching in the Berkeley County School District. Earlier in his career Bennett considered teaching at a school outside of West Virginia because of the salary difference.
"I think most young teachers for the first couple of years, I know pretty seriously a year or two I was out here," said Bennett, a Spring Mills High School teacher. "My roommate and I thought about moving to Loudoun County or Frederick and places like that."
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee says he's campaigning to increase the salary levels for all West Virginia teachers, especially in the Eastern Panhandle. The WVEA president was at Spring Mills High School letting teachers know he's advocating for higher salaries. He says too many teachers are leaving the panhandle to nearby states.
"You get your experience here then we lose you to a contiguous state," said Dale Lee, the West Virginia Education Association president. "That's the problem we have to address in West Virginia. We have to make our salaries competitive with the contiguous states."
"Much to our heartbreak, they have left for jobs in other places, higher paying jobs," said Nancy Ryan, a Berkeley County teacher and mentor. "It's detriment to the students in West Virginia who could use these young teachers with great new ideas."
Lee says he's continuing his campaign through all counties of West Virginia. He's urging all teachers to speak to local and state officials about this matter, and most of all for all the teachers to stick together.
"More and more are being asked from teachers," said Lee. "More and more programs are being put on teachers, with the lack of respect and lack of pay they are just fed up."
"It's always good that someone has your back and once again going back to Berkeley County. That is one of the reasons why I like it here," said Bennett. "I feel like Berkeley County in general does a better job than most counties in the state. I think we are an exception to the rule. It's always good somebody's got your back."
Lee is visiting South Jefferson Elementary School on Wednesday.