wvteachers West Virginia Education Association/Facebook
Striking West Virginia teachers rally in the State Capitol in Charleston.

West Virginia teachers begin statewide strike

As they did last year, teachers throughout the state walk off the job in pursuit of better working conditions.

For the second year in a row, teachers and other workers in West Virginia's public schools have walked off the job.

The Associated Press reports that unions are staging a statewide walkout Tuesday over education legislation that they view as lacking their input and as retaliation for a strike last year..

How long this one goes on will be a day-to-day decision, leaders of three unions for teachers and school service workers say.

“We are left with no other choice,” says Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ West Virginia chapter.

The 2018 walkout launched a national movement that resulted in strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington state, and more recently, Los Angeles and Denver.

Nearly all of West Virginia’s 55 counties called off public school classes Tuesday.

The unions have said lawmakers never asked for their insight into legislation in the Senate that narrowly passed Monday night. It now goes back to the House of Delegates.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee says that based on the Senate’s actions, “it appears that they are more interested in listening to the outside interests than they are the educators across West Virginia.”

One sticking point has been a provision to allow charter schools in the state. The unions believe charters would erode traditional public education, but bill advocates say the schools would give parents more choices. Charter school laws have been enacted in 43 other states and Washington, D.C.

The Senate version of the legislation would allow for up to seven charter schools statewide and provide for up to 1,000 education savings accounts for parents to pay for private school. The accounts would be for special-needs students and those who have been bullied.

The House version does not call for such savings accounts and would limit charter schools to one each in Cabell and Kanawha counties.

Senate President Mitch Carmichael says the bill found a middle ground and has “great provisions.” It would give teachers additional 5 percent pay raises on top of 5 percent raises they received after last year’s strike.

Video from the Associated Press:

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