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West Virginia teachers strike; lawmakers shelve education bill

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West Virginia lawmakers unanimously approved a 5% pay raises for teachers after the governor reached a deal, ending a teacher walkout that lasted 9 days.
USA TODAY

Lawmakers in West Virginia on Tuesday shelved an education bill that drew the ire of public school teachers across the state who walked off their jobs earlier in the day.

Union leaders had claimed the legislation was being pushed through without teacher input. They objected to, among other things, provisions that would create charter schools and education savings accounts to help parents pay for private schools.

The Republican-led House voted 53-45 Tuesday to table the bill indefinitely, drawing raucous applause from hundreds of teachers in the gallery.

Union leaders, who claimed the provisions would damage public education in the state, said they would get feedback from members and announce at 5 p.m. ET whether to end the strike.

“We owe it to our members across the state to talk to them first,” state Education Association President Dale Lee said, adding that “This battle is not over.”

Related: Teacher strikes: What’s next in your state

More: West Virginia teacher strike ends, some schools to reopen Wednesday

GOP Senate President Mitch Carmichael expressed disappointment in the House vote.

“Today the champions of the status quo won,” Carmichael said. “But that will not stop progress. They’re on the wrong side of history.”

Almost one year ago the state’s more than 20,000 teachers and school service personnel went on nine-day strike for better pay and benefits. That walkout helped inspire teacher demonstrations around the country, from Oklahoma and Arizona last year to Los Angeles and Denver this year. And the strikes are continuing: Teachers in Oakland, California, plan to walk out on Thursday.

Almost all the state’s 55 counties canceled school Tuesday. Schools in Putnam County, about 15 miles west of Charleston, remained open, and social media posts showed a picket line at the district’s bus garage.

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We take a look at a typical West Virginia teacher’s household budget. It’s no wonder why they protested. Here are the numbers, broken down.
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Striking teachers in West Virginia last year won a 5 percent pay raise – an average of about $2,000 per teacher. Katie Endicott, an English teacher at Mingo Central Comprehensive High School, told USA TODAY it’s disappointing that the situation has come to this so soon after. 

“It’s really disheartening to see the process play out and to see that people are using public education as a form of retaliation,” Endicott said. “But, at the same time, we’re really resolved in the fight and we’re not going to back down. We’re not going to quit because we know that the future of public education is at stake.” 

Mingo County teachers voted to go on a one-day strike two weeks ago, Mingo Central English teacher Robin Ellis said, and planned to walk out Tuesday.

“We anticipated this and we were ready for it,” Ellis said. “And we’re ready to take a stand.”

Contributing: John Bacon and Chrissie Thompson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press

 

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/02/19/west-virginia-teachers-strike-education-bill-public-schools-closed/2913036002/


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