What would Virginia teachers do if we raised their pay to the national average?

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

By Amie Knowles

February 29, 2024

In 2023, the Virginia Education Association reported that the estimated average teacher pay in Virginia was about $62,100. That’s more than $6,300 below the estimated national average. 

We asked Virginia teachers what they would do with a several-thousand dollar boost. The answers we received were heartfelt.

Take Jennifer Williams for example. We’ve written about her for a few years now, so you probably know her better as “The Book Lady.” She’s on a mission to give away 1 million books, and she’s well on her way toward that goal. By 7 a.m. Thursday, she’d passed out 142,534. 

Williams, who lives in the Danville area, is also a teacher. Her career in education spans about three decades, and it’s clear that it’s a labor of love. Even so, she told us that an additional $6,300 would help in a major way.

“I would have home repairs done,” Williams said. “We save forever to have them done.”

Tim Collins isn’t a teacher, but is married to one. He said that the extra pay boost would almost exactly pay for their mortgage for an entire year.

“My wife has been teaching 24 years and doesn’t make anywhere near that amount and never will,” Collins said. “In fact, that ‘average’ is substantially more than the top of the salary scale for Henry County.”

Charlotte Paris of Chatham noted that her salary is “way below” the Virginia average—and that’s after teaching for 13 years. 

She said the additional dollars would help her “not use credit cards and be able to live off of my income.”

Looking at the numbers

It’s simple math: $62,100 + $6,300 = $68,400. We took a look at the highest and lowest paid teachers with bachelor’s degrees in each of the respondents’ areas to compare to the national average.

In the 2022-23 school year (that’s last year—we’re currently in the 2023-2024 school year), the Henry County Public Schools’ base salary topped out at $63,306 for a teacher with 28 years or more of experience. First-year teachers made $45,537.

In Danville Public Schools, based off of a 10-month pay scale*, the salary for a teacher with 30 years of experience and a bachelor’s degree was $67,333 in the 2022-23 school year. Meanwhile, first-time teachers made $46,211.

For Pittsylvania County Public Schools, the numbers were less clear. The district uses “steps” rather than “years” to calculate salary. Teachers with 30 steps of experience working on a 200-day calendar made $65,542.88 in the 2022-23 school year. Teachers with one step made $43,681.17 using the same calendar.

Across all three districts, based off of the numbers we crunched, the average teacher salaries in 2022-2023 were:

  • Henry County: $54,421.50
  • Danville: $56,772
  • Pittsylvania County: $54,612.02

Efforts to raise teacher pay

In the General Assembly this year, Democratic lawmakers made teacher pay a priority. The legislation was met with broad bipartisan support. House Bill 187 calls for future budget proposals to include funding for “sufficient” salary increases for Virginia teachers. The bill would propel the average salary for an educator to “at least the national average teacher salary” by 2028.

That bill passed the state Senate with amendments, which were largely agreed to by the House of Delegates. Time will tell if Gov. Youngkin signs the teacher pay legislation into law.

Issues like increasing teacher salaries don’t happen unless our lawmakers know it’s important to the people of Virginia. If you want to add your voice to the conversation, contact your representative. It’s easy! You can find their office phone number, email address, and mailing address at the Who’s My Legislator portion of the Virginia General Assembly’s website. 

Pro tip: They listen to every voicemail they get, and often note that it’s the fastest and best way for them to take constituent feedback. So pick up the phone and let them know that you support funding education and educators, right here at home.

*Danville Public Schools lists salaries for 10-month, 11-month, and 12-month teachers; we reached out to ask about the differences, but did not hear back by time of publication.
  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

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