CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Nearly 60 percent of the public and 97 percent of education employees believe that education employees should have a salary increase.
That's according to a 2013 survey for the West Virginia Education Association. That group, one of West Virginia's largest teacher unions, is making a push for higher salaries for the state's teachers.
Monday the WVEA launched a "competitive pay" campaign, a concerted effort to lobby for higher teachers' salaries, which union officials say are necessary to attract and retain quality educators.
"A highly qualified skilled professional in the classroom is the greatest asset to our school system and is the most important factor in the development of the child," WVEA President Dale Lee said.
"We have 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."
Over the last decade, West Virginia has slipped in rankings of average teachers' salaries among all 50 states. In 1993, the average teacher's salary in West Virginia was the 30th highest in the nation, and by 2003 it was 38th.
Today the average teacher's salary in West Virginia is $45,453. That ranks West Virginia 48th in the nation. The national average is about $55,000.
West Virginia teachers also earn, on average, less than teachers in all surrounding states. WVEA officials say that puts teachers in 29 of the state's 55 counties within "an easily commutable distance to gain a significant salary increase."