ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) Superintendent Greg Killough says upping teacher pay is one of his top priorities, but there's a difference between what he wants to spend and what his division can probably afford.
Budget season is a busy season for divisions.
“Not only trying to do budget but we're trying to start recruiting teachers because this is the time of year,” said Killough.
Part of recruitment is looking at pay. The Virginia Education Association says the commonwealth ranks 32nd nationally in teacher salary. Roanoke County pays new teachers about $39 thousand per year.
Killough said, “We have students that will graduate from high school making more money than that. Is that really the message we want to send?”
Jim Livingston, VEA President, said, “Regardless of what the economy does or does not do, kids have to be educated.”
Livingston says in 2009, lawmakers cut school spending by $1 billion dollars to balance the budget. Since then, Livingston says schools haven't gotten back to that level.
“All those years that we were in a tight economy, our teachers paid the price. And it's time for us to bring them up,” said Killough.
Killough is optimistic he'll be able to give employees raises of about 1.5% next year; all of which would be funded locally.
He'd like to give 8-12 percent.
To do that, Killough says, he'll need money from Richmond.
“As a school division we don't raise our own funds,” said Killough. “I am physically dependant on the state, the federal and the county governments.”
He says conversations about teacher pay need to start now -- so finding teachers doesn't get any harder.
“We need to be very competitive,” he said.