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West Virginia legislators rush to compromise, end teachers strike

06 March 2018

After the State Senate on Saturday rejected his proposal to raise the pay for teachers, school service personnel and the state police to 5 percent and reduce it to 4 percent, Gov. Jim Justice said it's time "to quit playing politics" and "get our kids back in school".

On Saturday, March 3rd, the senate passed a bill lowering the proposed 5 percent pay increase to 4 percent (though at first they accidentally voted on and passed the house version of the bill, which gave teachers five percent, and had to do some procedural maneuvering to undo their mix-up).

"We recognize the urgency of this situation", said Delegate Paul Espinosa, chair of the House Education Committee and co-chair of the conference committee on House Bill 4145, the pay raise legislation.

Approving a 4 percent raise, instead of the 5 percent hike, will save the state $17 million, Boso said.

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The committee's initial inaction prompted schools to close again statewide on Tuesday, the ninth day of canceled classes.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and for the latest list of closings.

Teachers in the states are among the lowest paid in the country starting at just $33000 a year. The pay raise must be passed as a law, since West Virginia is not a collective bargaining state. "They're taking a big risk and they're putting themselves out there and fighting for the future of our state, which are these children", Vasale said. About 20,000 teachers walked out February 22, keeping nearly 277,000 students out of class.

In a joint statement, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, West Virginia Education Association and the School Service Personnel Association say Senate President Mitch Carmichael and its leadership team has left them with no choice.

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Teachers and other school workers are able to apply for funding via the Strike Support Fund through its GoFundMe page. That version passed the House on a 98-1 vote.

Hundreds of teachers and supporters, including students, rallied at the Capitol on Friday, the seventh day they've shuttered classrooms. With no agreement between the chambers, the conference committee was created. Everyone else agrees on the deal to reopen our schools - a bipartisan coalition of educators, parents, Democrat and Republican House Legislators, and the Governor.

"The Senate screwed up and sent the original 5% pay raise bill back to the House". It's an issue teacher Tonya McKinney can ignore. Some of the nation's bloodiest labor struggles were fought during the coal wars (1912-'21), when miners living in the squalid conditions of West Virginia company towns (where workers lived in company owned housing and were paid largely in tokens that could only be redeemed at company owned stores- a flawless monopoly basically) chose to go on strike.

"They understand. They get it, and it's so great to see them side by side with their teachers on the capitol steps, doing the chants and fighting for what the teachers deserve", she said.

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But the teachers dissatisfaction is more complicated than a desire for an increase in salary. When I visited with educators two weeks ago at the state capitol, they told me they want to be back in their classrooms. Joe Sterling reported from Atlanta.

West Virginia legislators rush to compromise, end teachers strike