Extra Credit

WalletHub: W.Va. 3rd worst state for teachers

Once again, a new “study” has come out showing just how terrible it is to live in West Virginia.

After conducting an “in-depth” analysis of data from the Census and Labor bureaus as well as teacher unions and other research groups, WalletHub has concluded that West Virginia is the third worst state for teachers. The study also found that West Virginia is surrounded by a land of opportunity as neighboring states were ranked favorably. Pennsylvania came in second, Virginia came in fifth and Maryland made the top-20. Ohio, which has the second highest teacher salaries when adjusted for cost of living, came in eighth.

The personal finance social network looked at 18 metrics in each state and the District of Columbia ranging from median starting salaries, unemployment rates and teacher job openings per capita. West Virginia came in the bottom half in most categories, placing 34th in average starting salaries, 42nd in median annual salaries, 42nd in 10-year change in teacher salaries, 45th in teacher wage disparity, 43rd in average number of hours worked by teachers and 33rd in unemployment rate.

It’s no secret that West Virginia teachers are paid considerably less than those in neighboring states — the nearly $4,000 disparity is a major talking point between public educators and legislators — but rankings like WalletHub’s needlessly fuels rhetoric that is high on money and low on students.

West Virginians constantly are told they’re poor, dumb and fat among many other things that serve to deflate pride in the mountains they call home. West Virginia is by no means a perfect place, but these “analyses” and “studies,” conducted by outsiders who may or may not have ever stepped foot on Appalachian soil, do a poor job of representing what it’s really like to live here.

The bad of West Virginia is certainly bad, but there is so much good that is swept under the rug because it’s not sensational like “West Virginia is the worst at (fill in the blank).”

West Virginia teachers with 10 years of experience are paid nearly $39,000. While that number is low compared to surrounding states, it’s high when stacked against the average in West Virginia. Every one of those dollars also goes further than in other states. According to the Tax Foundation, that $39,000 spends like $44,000 in West Virginia where the dollar’s worth is stretched to $1.13.

Per capita income in West Virgina is $22,482. So, teachers in West Virginia are doing pretty good. That doesn’t mean it’s OK to pay them an uncompetitive wage though. In fact, doing so leads to many bright educators leaving the state for better opportunities. New state Superintendent Michael Martirano acknowledges this and will seek more competitive wages for teachers.

So, being a teacher in West Virginia isn’t as bad as WalletHub makes it out to be. Certainly, teachers could and probably should be paid more, but until the full picture is taken into view, studies like WalletHub’s will continue to promulgate negativity, which often turns to entitlement as the offended seek change.

The last thing West Virginia needs is teachers more concerned with their paycheck than the success of their students.