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Lawmakers negotiating size of teachers' raises during special session

Teacher in classroom with students
Crixell Matthews
A teacher in their classroom with students during the first day of the 2021-22 school year at Hopewell High School. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

Virginia teachers seem certain to get healthy raises during the next two school years, but how healthy remains to be seen.

Former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, in his final biennial budget before leaving office in January, recommended teachers receive a 5% percent raise in each of the two budget years, starting on July 1.

The Democrat-controlled Senate adopted Northam’s proposal and went a step further, adding a 1% teacher bonus for the 2022-23 school year.

The Republican-controlled House didn’t go as far. It passed a state budget that includes a 4% raise and 1% bonus for teachers during each of the next two school years.

The raise is one of many differences House and Senate budget negotiators are trying to work out this spring. Their main disagreement is on tax cuts. The House largely supports Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s call for vast tax reductions. The Senate is calling for smaller tax cuts and more spending on education, public safety and mental health.

A number of lawmakers say once the tax issue is settled, spending issues - including the teachers’ raise - should fall into place.

The average salary for Virgnia’s classroom teachers was $61,684 during the 2020-21 school year, according to the Virginia Department of Education.

The National Education Association says the average salary for Virginia public school teachers was $59,267 during 2020-21, ranking 24th highest among states. The national average was $65,090.

Democrats frequently point to data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau that show Virginia teachers are paid the worst in the nation relative to the average pay for full-time workers in the state.