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By Sean Gorman April 25, 2011

Education Association president says Virginia teacher salaries below national average

The Virginia Education Association has complained for decades that salaries for state teachers are below the national average.

Kitty Boitnott, president of the 60,000-member organization, made the claim during an April 20 interview with WVTF Public Radio in Roanoke about merit pay for educators.

"The General Assembly has offered numerous times to get our teachers into the national average, and we’re certainly nowhere near that, and yet now we’re going to offer limited incentives to just a handful of people," Boitnott said. "That doesn’t make sense to me."

We examined her claim that state teachers are paid below the national average.

Carol Donohue, the assistant director of government relations for the Virginia Education Association, said Boitnott’s information comes from a December 2010 report from the National Education Association.

The report shows that the average 2010-2011 salary for classroom teachers in Virginia was $51,559. That’s about 9 percent lower than the average national public teacher salary of $56,069, according to the report.

Virginia had plenty of company in paying its teachers below the national average. In addition to the Old Dominion, 34 other states had teacher salaries trailing the average, according to the NEA report.

Virginia’s average pay for teachers ranked 23rd-highest among states. The top average state-wide salary was $72,708 in New York, while the lowest was $35,201 in South Dakota.

So in raw dollars, Virginia’s average teacher salary ranks near the middle of states.

The amount of money it takes to live comfortably in Virginia is going to be different than what it takes in New York or South Dakota. So we looked at where Virginia ranks in cost of living.

Virginia was the 26th most expensive state to live in during the last quarter of 2010, according to a report by the Missouri Department of Economic Development.

In other words, Virginia ranks in the middle of state both in teacher salaries and cost of living.

The VEA has long argued that Virginia is wealthy and can afford to pay teachers better than most states. Higher salaries, it argues, would help Virginia recruit and retain the best instructors.

We looked at Virginia’s ability to pay more, turning to data from the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis.

In 2010,Virginia’s per capita income was $44,762 -- the seventh highest among the states.

So it’s a logical argument that Virginia has greater ability than most states to pay teachers more. Virginians have higher salaries than most Americans. Their cost of living, meanwhile, ranks in the middle of states.

But we digress. Boitnott said Virginia pays its teachers below the national average and we owe you a rating on that.

Her statement is True.

Our Sources

WVTF Public Radio interview with Kitty Boitnott, president of the Virginia Education Association, aired on April 20, 2011.

Interview with Carol Donohue, assistant director of government relations at the Virginia Education Association, April 20, 2011.

National Education Assocation’s Rankings & Estimates report, December, 2010.

Virginia Department of Education’s 2010-2011 teacher salary survey, January 12, 2011.

Bureau of Economic Analysis, State Personal Income 2010, released March 23, 2011.

Interview with Jeff Newman, economist with the Bureau of Economic Research, April 20, 2011.

Missouri Economic Research and Information Center Cost of Living Data Series 4th Quarter 2010.  

Virginia Education Association website.

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Education Association president says Virginia teacher salaries below national average

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