All of West Virginia’s public schools are closed Tuesday, the fourth day of a statewide teacher strike.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reports that school districts in all 55 counties have canceled classes, according to the state Department of Education’s website.
The strike began Thursday as teachers expressed frustration with legislators and Gov. Jim Justice over what the employees believe are inadequate pay and benefits. Thousands of teachers came to the State Capitol in Charleston last week to protest.
State Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine issued a statement during the weekend indicating that the state school board may consider legal action to stop the strike.
Last week, in an effort to address teachers' demands, Gov. Justice signed a bill that will give teachers a 2 percent raise in 2018-19 and a 1 percent raise in each of the next two years. The bill also will give school support staff a 2 percent raise this year and a 1 percent raise next year.
But Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, says the pay hikes and a one-year freeze in health care premiums isn't enough, USA Today reports.
Teachers will not go back to their classrooms until a long-term solution is found to the problem of teacher pay across the state, she says.
“Our issues are clear. Our commitment to finding a solution has been consistent," Campbell says. "We stand together for our students, our communities and our state."
Many school employees say reining in Public Employees Insurance Agency health insurance costs and benefits is a more pressing issue than pay increases.
The National Education Association statistics show that West Virginia tanks 48th among the 50 states for teachers' salaries.
The state has nearly 20,000 public school teachers and more than 277,000 students.