CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — Education is once again going to be a big focus in this year’s West Virginia Legislative Session. This comes as no surprise, as these are recurring themes every year at the State Capitol.

When teachers went on strike in 2018 and 2019 in West Virginia, it eventually led to a 5% pay raise each year, and money to bolster their PEIA health insurance plan, which also covers other public employees. But now, the state has a severe teacher shortage with 1,500 vacancies.

Governor Jim Justice is promising to add another $100 million to PEIA, and wants another 5% pay raise for teachers, school staff and all state workers. There are concerns it’s still not enough.

“Any amount is welcomed, right? But truly I think that at a bare minimum, we could have a raise that at least matches the rate of inflation,” said Del. Elliott Pritt, (D) Fayette, who is a classroom teacher.

“We have to make a long-term commitment to educators for pay. We have to do a multi-year salary increase to get our salaries competitive with contiguous states,” said Dale Lee, President, West Virginia Education Association.

All of West Virginia’s neighboring states offer significantly higher pay and benefits. Because of that, many students graduate from West Virginia colleges and universities, teach here for a couple of years and then move across state lines for better compensation.

On Monday morning, a number of classroom teachers will be testifying before the House Education Committee about their classroom needs, and it won’t be a surprise if the issues of pay and benefits come up.