West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael asked the state Board of Education Thursday morning to retract the state schools superintendent’s $4,000 raise, which Carmichael called “unwarranted,” “shocking” and “outraging.”
By Thursday afternoon, Superintendent Steve Paine had sent out a news release refusing the raise.
Before the state school board’s unanimous vote Wednesday to give the raise, Paine made $230,000 annually. A few board members said Paine didn’t ask for the raise.
After Carmichael’s public call to retract the raise, board President Dave Perry at first said Thursday that, “I think once everybody understands the raise — that it was only 1 percent, it was the exact raise that the teachers got — there will be no controversy around it or further discussion.”
Teachers statewide have received two consecutive $2,000 raises in the past two years, while Paine’s pay hasn’t increased since he was hired in 2017.
After Paine announced Thursday afternoon that he would be refusing the raise, Perry said, “I did talk to [Paine] and we did discuss it and we were in agreement.”
Perry said Paine reached out to him Thursday and said he wanted to refuse the raise. Perry said some other board members agreed with the move.
“I am deeply appreciative of the West Virginia Board of Education’s confidence in me and willingness to recognize the accomplishments we have realized over the past two years through hard work and the use of innovative strategies,” Paine said in his news release. “Unfortunately, the Board’s vote to provide me with a salary increase has become a distraction to the students of West Virginia and they deserve better.”
Carmichael, R-Jackson, publicized his request through a news release sent out by the West Virginia Republican Senate Committee, which is a political organization rather than a legislative committee.
Instead of referring to Carmichael as Senate president, the release calls him by a largely ceremonial title: lieutenant governor. As Senate president, he would become governor if current Republican Gov. Jim Justice would leave office before the next election.
Justice butted heads with Republican senators in the recent omnibus education bill debate, and he ended up signing a version of the bill (House Bill 206), that significantly diverged from what the Senate passed earlier.
“The majority of the State School Board have been appointed by Governor Justice,” Carmichael said in the release. “I call upon the current Governor to join me in demanding the State School Board immediately rescind their action of this pay raise to the highest paid employee within the Department of Education. Our focus must be on driving performance and funding to the local classrooms and students, not raising the salaries of administrative personnel in Charleston.”
The Governor’s Office hasn’t yet responded to requests for comment.
Justice appointed seven of the nine board members.
But board members eventually require Senate confirmation. The Senate, while under Carmichael’s control, confirmed six of the nine, including the board’s current president and vice president.
Two others were confirmed before Carmichael took over. Daniel Snavely is the only board member who voted for the raise Wednesday who hasn’t been confirmed or rejected by senators yet.
Carmichael also said in his release that “I consider it a slap in the face to every teacher and school employee that an unelected board would unilaterally grant a pay increase to the highest paid employee in state education.”
In his three years as Senate president, Carmichael hasn’t publicly pushed legislative proposals that would allow West Virginians to vote to change the state Constitution so that citizens could elect the board’s members.
Paine’s release said that “at this time, I am not willing to accept a salary increase. Until we are able to address the lack of certified teachers in our classrooms and only as we are able to provide competitive benefits to our educators — inclusive of adequate pay and affordable healthcare — will I consider accepting a salary increase.”