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Governor: Deal reached to end 9-day teachers' strike

07 March 2018

"All the focus should have always been on fairness and getting the kids back in school, " he said in the tweet.

But Kanawha County's school system announced in phone calls to parents that schools would reopen Wednesday.

West Virginia teachers were among the lowest paid in the country, earning an average annual income of $45,240, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In a state that Trump won overwhelmingly, the teachers held out against the Republican-controlled state legislature's attempts to give them less than the 5 percent raise they'd demanded-and today, the teachers got the raise they wanted.

Regarding health benefits, teachers have expressed concerns about the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) and unaffordable premium increases, calling for a permanent fix.

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The mass walkout served as a warning to legislatures in other states and inspired teachers whose salaries also touch the pay floor.

The mood was more celebration and less protest at the West Virginia State Capitol.

The strike continued through the end of last week. Instead the Senate countered with an offer of 4 per cent on Saturday, prompting leaders of all three unions representing the state's teachers to announce the walkout was being extended. A legislative conference committee was appointed to resolve differences between bills in the House and Senate. The conference committee met for more than an hour Monday but were unable to reach an agreement.

"It's enormous", Boothe told hosts Brian Becker and John Kiriakou.

At the same time, rural communities across the state, particularly those once dependent on industries such as coal, have experienced a protracted state of economic depression and increased poverty and opioid addiction - a outcome of Americans' willingness to accept West Virginia as one of the nation's economic sacrifice zones. "I love my fellow teachers", Rouse said. "It's never been done like this in 28 years and it really showed how militancy and united action from working people were able to win the day", Boothe added.

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The state Senate and House both voted unanimously to approve the bill.

Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair said lawmakers will seek to cut state spending by $20 million to pay for the raises, taking funds from general government services and Medicaid.

He said he will also write a letter to the state superintendent asking for "flexibility" in the 180-day school requirement so that students and teachers won't have to make up the nine days they were out of the classroom. "Don't do this on the backs of the Medicaid recipients".

But in hindsight, the West Virginia teacher strike seemed inevitable. "It shows (students) how democracy is supposed to work, that you don't just bow down and lay down for anybody".

"These are some of the best kids you will ever see in your life", Rouse said of her students.

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"Teachers across the state came together for one goal", said another striking teacher, who stood near the state Capitol's soaring rotunda Tuesday. "It's the idea and the premise that we ought to invest in education and let education be an economic driver for us".

Governor: Deal reached to end 9-day teachers' strike