Common ground on teachers' salaries

Published:

Appalachian News-Express, Pikeville

For once, we agree with our politicians.

And thats probably because for once, they agree with each other.

Democrats and Republicans in Kentucky finally found some common ground during the past two weeks, with proposals from both sides to keep Kentucky teacher salaries competitive.

It sounds like they are finally figuring out what the rest of us already knew that there is almost nothing more important than our childrens education.

The movement started Jan. 5, when Democratic leaders announced a proposal to give teachers pay hikes totaling about 13 percent over the next four years from the current $41,619 a year.

According to The Associated Press, the plan, which would cost some $53 million a year over the next four years, calls for Kentuckys 46,000 teachers to receive wages equivalent to their counterparts not only in Ohio, where the average teacher makes $48,977 a year, but also Illinois, where teacher income averages more than $56,000 a year.

Then Gov. Ernie Fletcher proposed a raise that would bring teachers wages in line with neighboring states.

To improve education we must keep and attract quality educators, Fletcher said in his third State of the Commonwealth Address, delivered to a joint session of the General Assembly. An important factor toward that goal is increasing teacher compensation.

And why is teacher pay so important?

Well, Kentucky ranks 34th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in the rate it pays teachers, and Kentucky teachers are paid more than $5,000 below the national average.

Of the seven states surrounding Kentucky, five Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia pay their teachers more. Only Missouri and West Virginia pay less.

But the recent news isnt all good.

Democratic leaders including Harry Moberly and House Speaker Jody Richards said they had no specific pot from which to draw the money. And Fletchers plan, although it sounded nice, was short on details.

The money needs to come from somewhere, and the public needs to know exactly how these raises will be funded.

But ultimately, if the legislature can find the money, it will be worth it to keep our most talented teachers here instead of having them flee to neighboring states.

We agree with Charles Main, spokesman for the Kentucky Education Association, who told The Associated Press, There is no more important job, no more critical job for the future of Kentucky.

Were training the next generation of Kentuckians wage earners, taxpayers, voters and leaders. We just would like to see Kentucky make an investment in the future commensurate with the importance of the job that our people do.

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