West Virginia teachers to keep striking Tuesday

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"If you want to fix PEIA, then we need to be at the table", said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association.

Following Monday's announcement in Charleston, Wood County Schools announced it would be closed today, Code C, meaning staff does not report.

Striking teachers in West Virginia are to return to the classroom on Thursday, Gov. Jim Justice said Tuesday in announcing he is offering teachers and school service personnel a revised 5 percent pay raise in the first year to end their statewide walkout.

West Virginia hasn't had an across-the-board pay increase since 2014, there's a lack of substitutes, lack of appropriately credited teachers, lack of significant raises and most importantly, the lack of funding for healthcare insurance is driving teachers out of the state by the busload. In exchange for the latest proposal, teachers who have been on strike since February 22 would return to the classroom on Thursday. In 2016, West Virginia ranked 48th in the nation for average teacher salary, according to the National Education Association.

On Tuesday, United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts, a backwoods Baptist preacher, gave a roaring speech, calling on West Virginians to remember their history of struggle.

"The concept of a broad, omnibus natural gas bill including joint development and increases in severance taxes has been discussed for several months, and it has been very clear to me that such legislation does not have the support needed to pass the Legislature", Republican House Speaker Terry Armstead said in a statement.

"Successful is a relative term, but it is considering where we were three weeks ago, we made strides", he said.

State Schools Superintendent Steven Paine said in a news release last Tuesday that "work stoppages by public employees are not lawful in West Virginia and will have a negative impact on student instruction and classroom time".

A combination of four years with no pay raises, increasing health insurance costs and the sense of a general lack of respect pushed teachers to the boiling point and into the Capitol and onto picket lines around the state. "They need to be well compensated and they need to be qualified to teach our children", Dolan said.

As one 21-year veteran junior high teacher told Workers World, "I didn't become a teacher in this state for the money, but at one time, the insurance seemed like an incentive to stay here and teach". Almost one in four children in West Virginia live in poverty. This had been a bone of contention for teachers and service personnel, stating that not only was the wage not enough, but also that it would eventually cause a pay decrease with the rising cost of health care. I love collaborating with my coworkers to help our students learn and grow as citizens.

"A lot of people are trying to tell you what you're doing is illegal and you should be ashamed of yourself", White said to the thousands of public employees gathered for the rally.

"I just kind of thought that was wrong", Gideon told CNN. "I don't want to leave my state".

Thousands of striking schoolteachers who have shut down West Virginia classrooms for days are demanding a face-to-face meeting with the governor and legislative leaders on their pay grievances, a union official said Monday. The West Virginia PTA voiced their support for the strikers as well.