NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


January 25, 2007

Despite West Virginia ranking 47th in average teacher pay, when adjusted for cost of living, state educators were the 23rd highest paid in the country, says the Charleston Daily Mail.

For example:

  • A teacher wishing to work in the Bethesda-Frederick, Md. area would have to make $56,794 to live as comfortably as a West Virginia teacher who earns a salary of $38,360.
  • An educator wishing to settle in the Philadelphia area would have to make $51,384 to live as comfortably as they would in the Mountain State.
  • The same goes for a teacher looking to move to Charlottesville, Va. -- he or she would have to make at least $45,508.

Despite the strong purchasing power, teacher's unions in West Virginia continue to ask the Legislature for much bigger pay raises than the 2.5 percent proposed by Gov. Joe Manchin, citing only that they are paid less than those in surrounding states.

But the unions, and their supporters, are missing the point, says the Daily Mail.  According to a 2005 report by the National Center for Policy Analysis, most people assume teachers in areas with higher than average pay are doing well, while teachers in areas below the national average must fare worse.

Their analysis suggests that officials should consider the cost of living. "Simply totaling the number of dollars they are paid doesn't give a complete picture of how well, or poorly, teachers in a given city or region are faring. It is much more meaningful to know what a teacher's dollar will buy locally," the report says.

Source: Jessica M. Karmasek, "W.Va. pays less but dollars go further," Charleston Daily Mail, January 22, 2007.

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