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Q&A: Suffolk Del. Nadarius Clark on bipartisan support for raising teacher pay in Virginia

Photo courtesy - Virginia Mercury, Del. Nadarius Clark
Photo courtesy - Virginia Mercury, Del. Nadarius Clark

Del. Nadarius Clark, D-Suffolk, sat down with WHRO's Barry Graham days after legislation to raise pay for teachers and non-instructional support positions in Virginia received bipartisan support.

The new legislation is a response to the teacher shortage in Virginia. 

House Bill 187, sponsored by Clark in the House and Senate Bill 104, sponsored by Sen. Louise Lucas of Portsmouth, proposes that the state should provide compensation to public school teachers and non-instructional support staff at a rate equal to or higher than the national average.

Here’s part of Del. Clark's conversation with Barry Graham:


This interview was edited for clarity and length.

Barry Graham: You have said that this is something the General Assembly has heard from all across the Commonwealth, is there a real sense of urgency? Has an alarm been sounded about teacher salaries in Virginia?

Del. Nadarius Clark: Yes. This is something I actually have been pushing for three years now. This year, it passed the committee on a bipartisan basis. And now it's headed for the Appropriations Subcommittee for education in K-12.

So I do think that, you know, this is something that everyone is finally willing to work together around to make sure we're delivering the 3% raise that the Governor offered. And we have to make sure that we're just not putting a drop in the bucket. But we're delivering for our teachers.

Barry Graham: Has there been any pushback so far by school divisions, fearful that they would not be able to meet the financial demand that this is going to stipulate?

Del. Nadarius Clark: I know there some (are) rumors out there saying that certain places won't be able to afford it, and that's what we're working out in the budget to make sure that every locality will have the funds that it needs from the state, to make sure that they are paying their teachers what they deserve.

Barry Graham: This is a rare piece of legislation that has bipartisan support inside the General Assembly. Is there any any reason you think why both sides can come to an agreement on this issue?

Del. Nadarius Clark: Senator Lucas has carried it on the Senate side and already passed. So both chambers are showing that this is a priority; both sides are working together to deliver it and make sure that it makes it to the governor's desk.

Barry Graham: There seems to be some concern on how to define the national average of teacher salaries, thus establishing the baseline for the amount to be paid. Is this going to be difficult, do you think, to arrive a consensus on what exactly the national average is?

Del. Nadarius Clark: We have been using the National Education Association formula for the for the national average, and it shows right now that Virginia is about $5,000 short of the national average.

Barry Graham: Is there any concern that the state may not be able to afford this?

Del. Nadarius Clark: I haven't heard that from any from the appropriations chair in the Senate or in the House. I don't believe that that will be a problem. But I think we will get this to the Governor's desk, and then it will be his decision on what what the fate will be.