Every single public school in West Virginia closed on Monday, Feb. 26, amid an ongoing teachers’ strike.
There are 680 public schools in the state’s 55 counties. West Virginia employs about 20,000 classroom teachers, and more than 277,000 students are enrolled.
The National Education Association said that West Virginia’s teachers are the 48th lowest-paid in the country and have an average annual salary of around $45,000—about $13,000 below the national average, CBS News reported.
Hundreds of people attended a candlelight rally in support of the ongoing statewide teachers walkout outside of the capitol building in Charleston, West Virginia. A teacher strike over pay and health benefits is expected to continue into this week. https://t.co/iuTBSerQKk pic.twitter.com/EC84vKmU8w
— Fox News (@FoxNews) February 26, 2018
Ohio County teacher Ruth Bankey told the network: “We’re united. We’re all standing strong: teachers, service personnel. We are here and we are going to stay. We now need Charleston to wake up and smell the coffee.”
“Our teachers and our public employees are getting less in pay per year every year, and people are fed up and fired up about it,” added Morgantown High School art teacher Sam Brunett to the media outlet.
The closing of schools by counties for a work stoppage is functionally the same as closing for a snow day, officials said. “All of our locals have been in direct communications with their county superintendents,” said Christine Campbell of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, NPR reported.
State superintendent of schools Steven Paine said that talks were held over the weekend about the teachers’ strike.
“Many asked whether the state was planning to pursue legal action in this matter. A decision will be made on Monday if an agenda item will be added to the State Board of Education meeting scheduled for Tuesday to discuss legal action,” Paine said, according to NPR. He said the public will be notified Monday of any updates.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael and Attorney General Patrick Morrisey both described the move as illegal.
“This is, in large measure, a county issue. They must decide whether they are going to declare this an illegal strike — as that is clear from law that it is — or if they’re going to just close school for another day on other grounds,” Carmichael told the broadcaster. “So, to the extent that the counties have flexibility in how they manage their school system, the ball is in their court. So, we’ll see how each county [proceeds]. We certainly don’t want to tell them what to do. We’re not doing that by any means.”
Gov. Jim Justice signed legislation on Wednesday that would give teachers a pay raise, Fox2 reported. Teachers insisted that it wasn’t enough, and they also cited areas of concern such as health care costs and insurance.
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