a year ago
After a 9-day walkout, the West Virginia teachers have unanimously accepted the 5% pay raise offered to them by the state’s governor. In the presence of striking educators, the pay raise for teachers and school staff was passed on a 99-0 vote. Then, the Senate followed voting 34-0.
West Virginia, known for being the state with the lowest teacher salaries nationwide had to revise its spending policies. Craig Blair, the Senate finance chairman, admitted that the pay raise has become possible thanks to $20m cuts in state spending. The officials had to redistribute the funds allocated to general government services and Medicaid.
Not only teachers, but also other state workers require a pay raise. However, they will have to wait for the budget bill to pass before getting the 5% raise. Tremendous support that strike participants have received from thousands of their colleagues played a crucial role in the positive outcome.
Teachers Walkout: Why Was It Necessary?
So, here’s how West Virginia teachers fought for a pay rise:
● First, the teachers went on a walkout, keeping 680 schools in West Virginia closed for 9 days!
● On March 5, the crowd of 5,000 people entered the Capitol to demand more decisive action from the government officials. The building was briefly closed.
● When the building reopened, the West Virginia teachers expressed their frustration caused by the lack of progress.
● Finally, the Senate approved a 4% salary increase. Under the pressure from the 6-member conference committee, the Senate agreed to the 5% pay raise, adding the school staff and troopers to the cohort of eligible.
The teacher walkout has raised the awareness about the state of things in West Virginia, reminding it is one of the poorest states in the USA. During the strike, the working parents were forced to put their children relying on school meals at risk of going hungry.
Shocking as it is, 17.9% of West Virginians are living below official poverty levels! Volunteers including teachers and bus drivers, collect food for students relying on free breakfasts and lunches. Oftentimes, teachers have to donate their time, money or food.
It should be reminded that the teacher walkout over pay and benefits started on February 22 after a 2% teacher’s pay raise was signed for the next year. After a round of public protests, the pay rise of 5% has been approved.
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