Wednesday, 26 September, 2018

West Virginia teachers: No raise, no school; strike goes on

An election official watches as a man takes a ballot at an in-person absentee voting station in Fairfax Virginia AFP 2018 Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDSEarly Voting in West Virginia Exceeds Levels of Years- State Official
Eleanor Moreno | 05 March, 2018, 01:07

Striking teachers and other public employees in West Virginia have shut down schools across the state for more than a week, flooding the capitol in Charleston each day to rebuke their lawmakers.

If only someone could have foreseen such a state of affairs.

The West Virginia teachers strike appeared all but certain to carry into next week after state legislators passed a bill late Saturday that would give educators a smaller raise than the governor had told them they would get.

"I think that to rely upon money that was found over night, for a pay raise is a frightful economic condition in which to put yourself", said State Sen. Receipts would offset rising costs for all workers covered by the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

Wirt County Schools have announced that they will be on a two-hour delay Thursday.

It took a middle-school student to convince West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice to reconsider his position on the statewide teacher walkout that has sent home roughly 277,000 public school students who can least afford it. "They didn't believe (lawmakers) would follow through".

Their skepticism was well-founded. The WVEA is one of three organizations representing the teachers. While the news of a pay raise was enough to end the work stoppage, many like O' Neill, feel that it is simply not enough.

American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia President told Christine Campbell told WCHS-TV the cut was "a deal breaker". It also slashed its tax on groceries from six to three percent, and later did away with it entirely under Manchin's successor, Democrat Earl Ray Tomblin. We too would love to see state employees receive the same percentage increase as our school employees, and we are fully supportive of them also receiving a 5% increase.


It's an amount described as about $13 million out of the state's general fund of more than $4 billion. They said that was equitable - and they cast the position as fiscally responsible.

"We are right back where we started", she said.

The 4 percent and the 5 percent volleyed back and forth between the legislative chambers on Saturday, with no agreement.

"We are angry and disappointed with the actions of Senator Carmichael and his Republican leadership team", they said. But coal operators got battered by the shale boom and cheap natural gas, driving down demand for coal production. "But in the long run the strike is needed, and it is giving power to (teachers in) other states who need better pay as well". West Virginia now ranks 48th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in teacher pay, according to the National Education Association.

About 20,000 teachers have been on strike for seven days, keeping 300,000 students out of the classroom.

The walkout began last Thursday after months of simmering tension over myriad issues, including proposed changes to teachers' health insurance plans that would have raised monthly premiums for many.

There were votes taken not to return to work. Local pickets have gone up across the state as well.

Teachers and other school personnel began their walkout on February 22, closing schools in all 55 of the state's counties in an unprecedented show of solidarity. So far, not a single one of the state's 55 counties has reopened its schools ― a clear sign of the strike's backbone and the pent-up frustration of workers.

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