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Educators Stand Victorious

Jennifer Bair, Staff Writer

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Gov. Jim Justice and West Virginia’s Republican leaders agreed on Tuesday, March 6, 2018 to end the strike and bring 277,000 students back to school and 35,000 employees back to work. The statewide walkout that has kept students out of school for nearly two weeks has come to an end. Gov. Jim Justice has signed a bill to give teachers and other state employees a 5% raise they have truly deserved.

The pay raise was the main part of contention in the final days of strike, but the teachers have also demanded some relief from rising health insurance costs. With the raises, this will be costing the state treasury about $110 million a year. Some of the money for the raises would be redirected from amounts the governor had requested for tourism promotion and the state Department of Commerce, but lawmakers in the Senate said additional spending cuts would probably be made.

Mr. Miller, our music teacher at Beckley-Stratton, stated “the march was a very emotional thing to go into because teachers do not only teach for the money but teachers believe their purpose was to secure a good future for the students.”

The West Virginia Board of Education says public schools will have to make up 9 instructional days lost during the statewide teacher walkout. In addition to those 9 days, some school districts have as many as 6 Snow Days that also must be made up before the end of the school year. Jim Justice has asked county superintendents to be flexible as they decide how to meet the requirement of having 180 days of school, saying students “have suffered enough.” He wants families to have time for summer vacation and doesn’t want summer feeding programs placed in jeopardy if classes go too far into June. Raleigh County will be making up the days at the end of May for students and into the first week of June for teachers.

The state of West Virginia showed great support by having food and water available in many places for the students who rely on school breakfast and lunches. Many community organizations and churches have stepped in and helped the most they could. Teachers at the capital had shown huge energy and most were hoping to bring that back into the schools.

Our state has shown an impact on the country and has paved the way for other states to follow suite. In central Kentucky on Thursday, March 8, 2018 teachers gathered and rallied in front of public schools to protest proposed cuts to the retirement benefits in what could possibly be a precursor to a statewide strike. Kentucky’s public pension systems are among the worst-funded in the country. Over the next 30 years the state is $41 billion short of the money they will need to fund retirement benefits. Teachers at 28 schools in eight districts around the state had planned to participate in protests.

Around the nation momentum is building for protests over pay and benefits for public school teachers. Teachers in Arizona are contemplating actions of their own amid growing frustrations over meager pay. In Oklahoma, the president of the state’s largest teachers’ organization had made it clear that teachers will walk out of their classrooms April 2nd if lawmakers don’t approve a $6,000 raise by April 1st.

Our teachers in West Virginia have been a part of history, fighting for what they deserve over those nine days of striking. Steven Paine, the superintendent of our schools, said in a statement ahead of the strike said he fully recognizes and supports the work of teachers and that they “deserve more,” but “the economic realities of our state may not allow everything teachers deserve to take place immediately.” He also pointed out that work stoppages by public employees are “not lawful.” Then our State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said the strike was “illegal.” The teachers were initially considering a “rolling strike,” in which teachers in a few counties would walk out each day but many decided it would be better if they went “all-in.” The teachers had spoke their word and got what the truly deserved and now are back in the classrooms with their students!

 

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