West Virginia lawmakers unanimously approved 5 percent pay raises for teachers and troopers on Tuesday after the governor reached a deal to end a teacher walkout that shuttered the state’s schools for nine days. “They are sacrificing to be here and they want to be back in their classrooms, but they believe enough is enough”, Garcia explained.
Schools systems in almost all of the state’s 55 counties have announced they will remain closed Tuesday.
In a state that Trump won overwhelmingly, the teachers held out against the Republican-controlled state legislature’s attempts to give them less than the 5 percent raise they’d demanded-and today, the teachers got the raise they wanted. “But we weren’t coming down or backing down until they did this right”, said Zanetta Stallworth, a McDowell County Schools employee. Craig Blair said the deal included at $20 million spending reduction. The money will come from budget cuts from his staff. “The governor’s basically following that belief”.
Arizona’s status as a “right-to-work” state is irrelevant, he said, because that simply means employees can’t be forced to pay union dues in order to work for a given employer.
“By making these cuts we know with absolute certainty, that that funding will be there so there’s a lot of hard cuts there”, said State Sen.
“I’m still concerned – very concerned for that matter – that the numbers are not accurate” he said. “If we get to the point that we’ve tried all the avenues, this would be a last resort”.
“They took the position that they didn’t have to decide that issue, then ruled in our favor on other grounds”, he said. A state Department of Education spokeswoman didn’t return an email message. Capitol Police and organizers are working to “ensure manageable conditions this afternoon”, the agency said.
So when the Oklahoma House failed to pass a bill earlier this week that would have raised oil and tobacco taxes to fund a $5,000 pay raise, fed-up teachers began to mobilize, and the West Virginia strike and its apparent success may provide the impetus to go ahead with similar actions.
The union had been fighting for increased wages in a state where teacher pay is among the lowest for educators in the country, ranking 46th out of 50 states, according to the National Education Association. “States just don’t have the bargaining power to really bring down costs”. At least two GoFundMe pages have been launched in support of the walkout.
Striking teachers and school service personnel picket outside Triadelphia Middle School in Wheeling on Monday.
Garcia also spoke in front of hundreds of teachers on the capitol steps to show her support for educators in the Mountain State. Instead the Senate countered with an offer of 4 percent on Saturday, prompting leaders of all three unions representing the state’s teachers to announce the walkout was being extended. The conference committee met for more than an hour Monday but were unable to reach an agreement. The House and the Senate could extend that deadline.
In West Virginia, a statewide teacher strike appears to be over. The suggestion was rejected by the Republican leadership.
The West Virginia teachers called it a victory for students as well. Public schools there have been closed for nine straight school days.
West Virginia teachers are equally unhappy with their employee health insurance program. Numerous teachers disagreed with a proposed deal that did not include permanent fixes to PEIA, which requires employees to pay high premiums. Last week, in a separate decision, Gov. Justice agreed to create a task force to address the problem.