W. VA. Lawmakers Seek Fairness through 'Locality Pay'

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The idea of paying teachers the same across a state may seem fair at first, until confronted by the real and sizeable fluctuations of cost of living within most states. Some West Virginia lawmakers are seeking to address the pay disparities among their districts with "locality pay," a term that may sound like the state is ready to properly cede some control to local districts, but in reality raises the level of state interference up a few notches.

First some background. Like 20 states, West Virginia has adopted statewide salary schedule that sets the minimum salary a teacher can earn at any stage of his or her career. Like all states with one of these schedules, West Virginia allows its districts to top up salaries with their own funds. Unlike other states though, West Virginia has a system of equity pay that requires the state to pony up the money needed to keep all salaries in the state roughly equivalent, with no district paying more than 10 percent less than any other district. The state legislature is considering making some adjustments to that rule, provided a district can show that their cost of living is higher than others.

Why not do what makes the most sense--just dump the state salary schedule and letting districts decide what they can afford to pay? This proposal makes an already complicated arrangement even more so, to no particular advantage. It's not in the best interest of districts or teachers.