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W.Va. needs more teachers, unions say

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — In 2012, at least 1,850 teachers retired in West Virginia —about 230 more than the state saw in 2008, according to the state Consolidated Public Retirement Board.

Those numbers don’t include members of the Teachers Defined Contribution Retirement System, which has a smaller membership than the state’s Teachers Retirement System and was closed to new members in 2005.

Last year, in Kanawha County — the state’s largest school district — 216 teachers quit their jobs. About 75 percent of those were retirees.

The state’s teachers unions have been warning of what a Baby Boomer mass exodus will mean for the public education system, urging officials to increase teacher pay and provide more mentoring and benefits to new teachers in order to attract and retain them.

Union leaders have also stressed that the state is losing teachers due to more than just retirement — pointing to teachers who drive across state borders to work for higher salaries.

Kanawha County saw an 11 percent turnover rate for teachers in 2014 — significantly higher than it was several years ago, according to Carol Hamric, director of human resources for KCS.

“It’s starting to be a little unhealthy,” she said. “Baby Boomers are retiring at a rapid rate. It’s like this all over the country. It’s not just school districts — it’s the whole workforce. But I think in school districts, it’s a bad thing because higher ed isn’t turning out teachers. We have a low supply and a high demand right now. Unless higher ed turns out a lot of teachers, we don’t have people to fill the vacancies.”

In 2013, about 1,700 college students in West Virginia majored in education — a decrease of more than 8 percent since 2008, according to the Higher Education Policy Commission.

Aspiring teachers made up about 13 percent of the state’s total college graduating class in 2012, according to the HEPC…

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