Teacher Walkout will see Mineral County Schools Closed Thursday and Friday

Cheryl Sanders
February 22, 2018

According to the National Education Association, the average salary for a West Virginia teacher was $45,622 in 2016, which ranked 48th among all states. The state's House of Delegates has voted to give public school teachers 2-percent raises next year and a 1-percent raise over the next three years, while the state's Senate has approved a 1-percent raise, every year, over the next five years.

Don Scalise, a government and history teacher at Cabell Midland High School, told HuffPost that health insurance used to be a bright spot for West Virginia teachers, despite the lower salaries.

Teachers are also scheduled to get an additional 1 percent hike in each of the following two years.

The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia said Wednesday that despite negotiation efforts with House and Senate leaders and the governor's office, "we have not been able to make the progress needed to avoid further action".

On the eve of the impending strike, Justice, a Republican, signed a bill into law that would raise pay for teachers and state employees. "We certainly recognize our teachers are underpaid and this is a step in the right direction to addressing their pay".

Earlier Tuesday, the Public Employees Insurance Agency agreed to freeze premiums and rates for the next fiscal year for teachers and other public workers covered by the plan.

In Monongalia County, which includes Morgantown, Superintendent Frank Devono said all schools will be closed Thursday and Friday, lacking sufficient staff to safely operate schools or transport and feed students.

"We still have to to pursue a long-term plan to address the rising costs", he said.

"We passed out a measure that is now in the Senate that would provide a limited funding stream for PEIA, so I think the ball is in the other chamber's court at the moment", said Del.

Former Ohio County teacher of the year Heidi Hohman was on the picket line at Triadelphia, and said in recent years she has mentored eight student teachers she termed "excellent", and ready to lead in the the classroom.

The work stoppage comes after Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation late Wednesday night granting teachers a 2% pay increase starting in July, followed by 1% pay increases over the next two years. "State law and court rulings give specific parties avenues to remedy such illegal conduct, including the option to seek an injunction to end an unlawful strike", Morrisey said in his statement.

During the 1990 strike, the attorney general at the time, Roger Tompkins, also issued a statement saying the strike was illegal.

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