After nine days of protest, West Virginian teachers and educational workers will receive a five-percent raise. State employees will also see an increase in pay.
MetroNews reported the state legislature struck a deal with educators on the morning of March 6. The House of Delegates and Senate passed the bill unanimously.
West Virginian teachers first garnered national attention after walking out of schools to protest stagnant wages. Teachers became frustrated with the lack of raises as well as increasing healthcare costs. Additionally, they called out the state, saying there needed to be a greater focus on education.
At first, Gov. Jim Justice proposed one- and two-percent increases in teachers’ pay. Not satisfied with that, educators continued their protests. Justice made other mistakes, too, including when he called teachers “dumb bunnies.” Teachers responded quickly and loudly, both at town halls and online.
But, with those comments behind them, educators and the state government both expressed their excitement after the deal was struck. Upon hearing the news the bill had passed in the legislature, teachers broke out into song, singing “Country Roads.”
Justice and state legislators were all smiles at a press conference held after the bill’s passage. “What a good day,” said Justice, who seemed relieved to have finally reached an agreement.
The teachers’ efforts really paid off and illustrated that palpable change can come about through political action. Educators and legislators worked together, prioritizing education and thus investing in the state’s future.
In a bold move, West Virginia public school teachers and employers have walked out of their schools. They did not show up for work on Thursday of Friday, and they plan on staying out on Monday.
The strike is led by three main organizations: The American Federation of Teachers – West Virginia, the West Virginia Education Association, and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association. In the 680 public schools located across the state, there are 19,488 classroom teachers. On Friday, thousands of teachers went to the Capitol in Charleston to take part in a protest, which focused on the low salary that they receive.
According to the National Education Association, West Virginia is the third lowest state in the country in terms of average teacher salary, which was listed at $45,622 in 2016.
Teachers are asking for pay raises and better benefits. They feel that these are necessary so that they can support their families and feel secure in their financial positions. As it is now, many teachers take on second jobs to make ends meet; many others have fled the state for better-paying jobs in neighboring states.
Teachers are currently scheduled to receive a 2% raise in July, an additional 1% in 2020, and another 1% in 2021. Many feel that this is only a small step forward, and that more needs to be done to retain and attract educators to West Virginia’s public school system.
Public schools have been closed during the walk-out and will remain closed on Monday.
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