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West Virginia Teacher Strike Still On After Senate Cuts Promised Raise

West Virginia Teacher Strike Still On After Senate Cuts Promised Raise

The union representing W. Va. teachers says their strike - begun February 22 - will extend at least through Monday, if not longer, after the state Senate failed to pass the raise teachers are holding out for.

As Jessica Salfia, an English teacher at Spring Mills High School in Berkeley County, W. Va., wryly told NPR's Weekend Edition, "apparently they need more teachers on-staff in the Senate to do some proof-reading and editing".

Schools in all 55 counties have been closed since February 22 as teachers and others have rallied for higher pay and a long-term fix for the Public Employees Insurance Agency. However, House Speaker Tim Arstead presumed that the Governor's revenue estimates for 2019 "should allow us to afford larger pay raises". They have not seen a pay raise in over a decade.

Teachers from the state's two biggest metropolitan areas-Oklahoma City and Tulsa-converged on Friday to discuss the possibility of going on strike to pressure the state legislators to enact what educators call long overdue pay raises.

The waiting frustrates parents, students and union leaders, who've marched and crowded the state capitol for legislative hearings. However, the deal failed to address the issue of healthcare, leading to continued protests from the teachers of West Virginia. "This is unprecedented. It's confusing and I think (teachers are) disheartened by the process".

They say all public schools in West Virginia will be closed again Monday and will "remain closed until the Senate honors the agreement that was made".

The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, West Virginia Education Association, and the School Service Personnel Association said the Senate didn't leave them any choice, after voting to reduce their pay raise to 4 percent Saturday night, the Chicago Tribune reported.

However, that raise must be passed as a law, since West Virginia is not a collective bargaining state. The Senate Finance Committee ended up putting forward a 4% raise in the altered bill.

"House members wouldn't agree to that change, and both sides appointed three members to a conference committee, which will try to hash out the differences on the bill". John Unger, a Democrat, has stated that it's the Senate's fault the bill hasn't gone through. Republican Sen. Greg Boso of Nicholas introduced the amendment to lower the raise, which the full Senate adopted by a vote of 19-15.

"This might be one of the craziest legislative screw-ups in WV legislative history, "the West Virginia Education Association posted on Facebook". The state's teachers are reportedly some of the lowest-paid in the nation, according to KTUL.

"When the events unfolded from there, it was evident we have a representative government in the Senate that abused power last night", she said.

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