wvastrike West Virginia Education Association
West Virginia officials announce an end to teacher strike.

West Virginia teachers agree to end statewide strike after governor promises larger raises

Promise of new legislation will bring teachers back to schools on Thursday.

West Virginia schoolteachers have agreed to return to classrooms Thursday after the governor promised to boost salaries.

CNN reports that Gov. Jim Justice says that teachers and other education-related employees will get a 5 percent pay raise in the first year, as long as the state legislature approves it in a new bill.

Teachers statewide began a strike last week in an effort to win better pay and benefits. 

Justice told reporters he has spoken to the leaders of the Senate and the House and was "very, very hopeful" a bill would pass soon in place of one that included a smaller cumulative raise over more time.

But addressing teachers' concerns about insurance will take time and a task force, the governor says, and teachers assembled at the state Capitol were not happy about that.

There were many boos when they learned insurance issues were to be dealt with later. After they were told they would go back to schools Thursday with a possibility they might get called to strike again, teachers chanted "Back to the table!" and "Fix it now!"

The governor says he had changed his position on giving a raise this size after talking with a sixth-grader named Gideon Titus-Glover.

Justice said Gideon was asking questions about tourism and the governor tried to explain about returns on investments in marketing. Turning one dollar into eight is a good investment, the governor told Gideon.

"Wouldn't it be an investment to invest in smart teachers that would make me smart and then I can in turn, turn around and do smart, good things for our state?" the student asked.

The strike put about 20,000 teachers and 13,000 school service employees on the picket lines, and kept about 277,000 public school students out of class. The walkout began after Justice signed legislation last week that provided a 2 percent pay increase for teachers starting in July, followed by 1 percent pay increases over the next two years.

But the bill did not address issues with the teachers' public employees insurance program, the rising costs of health care and a tax on payroll deduction options.

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, says the organization reserves the right to call another strike if the legislation gets bogged down or doesn't move ahead expeditiously.

 

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