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Hampton Roads school divisions pushing for more teacher pay

While more people are getting back to work, several school divisions in Hampton Roads face teacher shortages. There's a new push to attract and retain employees.

NORFOLK, Va. — As several school divisions face teacher shortages, there's a push to attract and retain employees.

Budget proposals across Hampton Roads include raises for educators. 

Virginia Beach City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence says if the pandemic taught us anything, it’s the value of public education.

“Public schools matter, and if public schools matter, then we’ve got to invest in them in ways that show we value them in our community," he said.

School teachers and staff had to adapt over the past two years, and Spence said the division must show educators how much they are valued. Pay is a big part of that.

RELATED: Teacher raises considered in Hampton, Norfolk public school budget proposals

“There’s a 40 percent pay gap between teachers and everybody else with a bachelor's degree in Virginia," said Spence.

Spence is recommending a 5 percent total pay increase for all staff across the division. His proposal also features better pay rates, stipends of investments in healthcare costs, including reducing employee premiums.

You can read Spence's full recommendations here

Other Hampton Roads school divisions are also pushing for more teacher and staff compensation.

Portsmouth Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Elie Bracy recommends a 5 percent raise for all staff. As of February, the division has 56 vacancies for instructional assistants and 105 vacancies for teachers, according to spokesperson Lauren Nolasco. 

The proposal for Hampton City Schools supports a 5 percent pay raise for all full-time staff and most part-time positions, according to the school division. It also includes adjustments to teacher pay scales and increases to teachers' starting salaries. 

You can read Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Smith's full recommendations here

Hampton school board members will hold public hearings on the proposed budget on March 9 and March 16. The HCS School board is scheduled to vote on March 23. 

In Norfolk, Superintendent Dr. Sharon Byrdsong recommends average teacher pay increases just under 6 percent, with a list of pay bonuses. The NPS school board is scheduled to vote on March 16 and must provide a budget to the Norfolk City Council by April 1. 

You can read the recommendation for Norfolk Public Schools here

For Chesapeake Public Schools, the budget proposal includes a 3.5 percent bump for starting teacher salaries, going from $47,150 to $48,000. Overall, the average teacher salary would increase about 5 percent. 

Read more about the CPS proposed budget here

In Suffolk, the average recommended teacher would be more than 7 percent. Read the full budget proposal here

In Newport News, NNPS superintendent Dr. George Parker will give his budget presentation to the school board on March 8. However, he recommends a 5 percent overall salary increase and higher starting teacher salaries. 

You can read the NNPS budget proposal here

“We can have beautiful grounds and fields and all of those things, but none of those things are of value if we don’t have the people in the buildings who are trained to do the work," said Kathleen Slinde, president of Virginia Beach Education Association. 

Slinde is glad to hear the Virginia Beach school division plans to invest more in staff. She said compensation and work-life balance are popular topics among educators in the public school system. 

Teachers do what they do for the children, says Slinde. But educators have needs, too.

“No one wants to leave education because of the money, but we have to be able to live,” she said. 

As of late January, Virginia Beach City Public Schools had more than 100 teaching vacancies and 300 non-instructional vacancies, according to Spence's report. 

Spence hopes higher wages can help fill that gap, though he says other variables are at play. 

“I hope this will help but I also recognize — I think we all recognize in the employment marketplace that pay is not the only thing," said Spence. 

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