Low pay in Virginia education not keeping teacher applicants away

Area school divisions seeing normal amount of vacancies

By Shayne Dwyer - Reporter

SALEM, Va. - School teachers across Virginia will be rallying in Richmond on Monday for better education funding.

Teacher pay and spending per student in the Commonwealth fall in the bottom half of all states.

On Saturday, two dozen local school divisions attended a job fair, which begs the question: Do people still want to be teachers?

While support is growing across our region for the cause, teachers are not quitting en masse. There are concerns about the teacher pipeline as fewer people are going to college to become teachers. But at least for right now, while the politics are playing out there is no crisis looming.

On Saturday afternoon, students were out of school, but division administrators were working hard shopping for their next great teachers. Niki Johnston was one of the hopeful applicants, ready to land her first job in a classroom.

"I think (teaching) is very important. It's the foundation for everything," Johnston said. "You can move on and not become a teacher yourself, but you still need your education."

Johnston was one of the job seekers coming right to the boss' front door for interviews. The Western Virginia Public Education Consortium job fair brings about 25 divisions and their job opportunities all under one roof.

"Right now, we feel really good about it. We had over 180 individuals preregister for the job fair, which is the highest we've ever had," Western Virginia Public Education Consortium Executive Director Terry Arbogast said.

That's a good thing, considering the growing conflict in education. The Red for ED campaign, which started in Arizona rallying for teacher salary increases, is gaining traction in the Commonwealth and thousands are expected to rally Monday in Richmond for more funding.

The consortium is a nonpartisan group, but it supports helping teachers any way it can.

"That's part of the reason we're not getting people into education, because the salaries are not compatible with other jobs they could have," Arbogast said.

But despite the concerns over salary, the job fair proved people still want to be teachers. While there are about 600 vacancies across the consortium's member schools, that number is flat and right where it always usually is.

Many walked away Saturday with offers in hand, including Johnston, who scored a job with Roanoke City Schools and, despite the growing concern, is keeping her positivity on top.

"You fight for what you think you deserve, and I completely support all of that. However, I don't think that all of the children that we're teaching should be put on pause because we want more money," Johnston said.

Many teachers from our area will be in Richmond for the rally. 10 News will be there, as well, and will report on the story from Richmond on Monday night.

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