West Virginia Public Schools Remain Closed as Teachers Continue Strike

Teacher-led protests and strikes in West Virginia this week have left all 680 of the state’s public schools shuttered for days. School support staff have also joined educators in their demands for better compensation and improved benefits.

Roughly 20,000 teachers and 13,000 school staff members have participated in the strike, with many gathering at the state capitol in Charleston.

Though West Virginia Governor Jim Justice recently authorized a bill granting a modest salary increase to teachers, strikers say it is too little, too late. The last major statewide teacher pay hike came in 2014, when all public teachers were granted an additional $1,000 annually.

According to the National Education Association, West Virginia teachers rank forty-eighth in the nation for pay. Unlikely to be a coincidence, student achievement in the state also ranks forty-eighth in the United States.

While teachers certainly want their pay increased, their biggest grievance focuses on benefits. The problem isn’t that they are being slashed, but rather that these benefits are not set to increase alongside increasing prices for insurance plans and copays.

“It’s a big problem when it costs more than you make to get health insurance, and I don’t think our lawmakers really understand how serious we are,” ninth-grade teacher Melissa Whitener told CNN.

Save for the delusional, few believe that working in U.S. public education will lead to great wealth. However, many teachers — and not just those in West Virginia — hadn’t anticipated mounting school debt and rising insurance costs.

I recently wrote about Heather Holland, a second grade teacher from Texas who died from the flu after being unable to afford a $116 copay on a prescription that very well could have saved her life.

Holland’s predicament serves as a tragic and stark reminder of the type of problems teachers face — not just in Texas and West Virginia, but in much of the United States.

For a long time now, educators have been woefully undervalued in this country. President Trump and Republicans have opted to enact significant tax cuts for wealthy Americans while promoting billions of dollars in military expansion, the construction of an impractical wall along the U.S.-Mexico border and a significant overhaul of the nuclear arsenal — all while teachers are forgotten.

Education might not be as sexy and exciting as buying new Navy destroyers, but it should be far and away the top priority for anyone who understands the inevitable need for a skilled, innovative future work force.

On Tuesday, Governor Justice relented and agreed to support a 5 percent salary increase for all school staff. He also promised to put together committees that will look at how to best manage rising benefit costs. But not all teachers are satisfied with this deal.

It is a sad comment that thousands of educators must take to the streets in order to finally see movement toward reasonable compensation. Fortunately, this showdown shows the power of walkouts and protest. Lawmakers in other states, if they’re wise, should begin drafting legislation to help their educators see a fair paycheck now to prevent some following West Virginia.

Photo Credit: Mobilus In Mobili/Flickr

46 comments

Paulo R
Paulo R2 months ago

ty

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Paulo R
Paulo R2 months ago

ty

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Stacie S
Stacie S3 months ago

As a single mom, socialist, activist, and future educator I support the strike.

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John W
John W3 months ago

Public sector unions are the bane of the US and UK

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Leanne K
Leanne K3 months ago

Tough if youre a single parent and working

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Leanne K
Leanne K3 months ago

Good on them for taking action

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Winn A
Winnie A3 months ago

:-(

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Cathy B
Cathy B3 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Danuta W
Danuta W3 months ago

Thank you for posting.

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Peggy B
Peggy B3 months ago

TYFS

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