PERCEPTION is nine-tenths of the law in politics and that is the problem with Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's plan to give a 2 percent pay raise to teachers and a $504 a year, across-the-board raise to other state workers.Few would deny that even with step increases, the state should give teachers and other public servants a raise. The problem is where the money is coming from.The raises are part of a $148.7 million increase in state government spending, a 3.4 percent budget increase.To make up the gap in the "austere" state budget, Tomblin plans to withdraw $83.8 million from the state's $920 million rainy day fund.
That's a 9 percent withdrawal.Rainy day? The public notices no such precipitation. Instead, many West Virginians believe the money is already there; officials are spending it wrong.Data gathered by the National Education Association, a teacher's union, supports their contention:West Virginia spent $12,317 per student in 2010-2011.That was 17th in the nation and above the national average of $11,871.West Virginia was 49th on per capita income at $31,806 in 2010 or 80 percent of the national average.West Virginia was 49th in teacher pay with an average of $44,260 in 2010 or 81 percent of the national average.
A system that is 17th in school spending per student while 49th in pay per teacher indicates a fundamental problem with asset allocation.Last year, amid much fanfare, Tomblin promised education reform as recommended in the education efficiency audit of schools by Public Works LLC of Pennsylvania.The unions rallied against many of those reforms and Tomblin signed into law a watered down reform that failed to free the money needed to pay teachers better.A year later, the administration wants to raid the rainy day to fund raises. Can't that money be found by implementing more of the audit's efficiency measures?