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West Virginia teachers strike; lawmakers shelve education bill


One year after striking over low pay and high health care cost, teachers in West Virginia were faced with an omnibus bill which would introduce charter schools and education savings accounts as part of their state education reform.
Jarrad Henderson, USA TODAY

Teachers in West Virginia decided to strike for another day even after the House of Delegates shelved an education bill that had drawn educators’ ire and prompted them to walk off their jobs Tuesday.

The teachers said they wanted to drive home the point that the bill should be killed.

The Republican-led House voted 53-45 Tuesday to table the bill indefinitely, drawing raucous applause from hundreds of teachers in the gallery.

At an evening news conference, state Education Association President Dale Lee said there was still “a minute” chance the bill may be revived

On Monday, the state Senate had passed the measure 18-16, restoring some of the controversial provisions the House had previously removed or diminished.

“It’s very clear we cannot trust the leadership in the Senate,” said Fred Albert, president of the West Virginia branch of the American Federation of Teachers. “That’s why we’re staying out one more day, to make sure this is a dead bill tomorrow.”

Union leaders had claimed the legislation was being pushed through without teacher input. They objected to, among other things, provisions that would create charter schools and education savings accounts to help parents pay for private schools, saying those changes would damage public education in the state,


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Related: Teacher strikes: What’s next in your state

More: West Virginia teacher strike ends, some schools to reopen Wednesday


West Virginia lawmakers unanimously approved a 5% pay raises for teachers after the governor reached a deal, ending a teacher walkout that lasted 9 days.

GOP Senate President Mitch Carmichael expressed disappointment in the House vote.

“Today the champions of the status quo won,” Carmichael said. “But that will not stop progress. They’re on the wrong side of history.”

Almost one year ago the state’s more than 20,000 teachers and school service personnel went on nine-day strike for better pay and benefits. That walkout helped inspire teacher demonstrations around the country, from Oklahoma and Arizona last year to Los Angeles and Denver this year. And the strikes are continuing: Teachers in Oakland, California, plan to walk out on Thursday.

Almost all the state’s 55 counties canceled school Tuesday. Schools in Putnam County, about 15 miles west of Charleston, remained open, and social media posts showed a picket line at the district’s bus garage.


We take a look at a typical West Virginia teacher’s household budget. It’s no wonder why they protested. Here are the numbers, broken down.
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Striking teachers in West Virginia last year won a 5 percent pay raise – an average of about $2,000 per teacher. Katie Endicott, an English teacher at Mingo Central Comprehensive High School, told USA TODAY it’s disappointing that the situation has come to this so soon after. 

“It’s really disheartening to see the process play out and to see that people are using public education as a form of retaliation,” Endicott said. “But, at the same time, we’re really resolved in the fight and we’re not going to back down. We’re not going to quit because we know that the future of public education is at stake.” 

Mingo County teachers voted to go on a one-day strike two weeks ago, Mingo Central English teacher Robin Ellis said, and planned to walk out Tuesday.

“We anticipated this and we were ready for it,” Ellis said. “And we’re ready to take a stand.”

Contributing: Chrissie Thompson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press


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