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Why are West Virginia teachers on strike for the second time in less than a year?


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (CIRCA via WCHS/WVAH) — West Virginia public school teachers are striking for a second day even though legislation they loathed was tabled in the House of Delegates.

Schools in 54 of the state's 55 counties were closed Wednesday. The lone holdout again was Putnam County.

Leaders of three unions covering teachers and school service workers say they have trust issues with lawmakers and believe there's a small chance there still could be further developments with the complex legislation.

“I hope to goodness it'll fly through the House."
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice on his 5 percent pay-raise bill

One day after the House effectively killed the bill, Senate Bill 451, other legislation is getting attention. This proposal would boost the pay of teachers, school service workers and state police by 5 percent. Gov. Jim Justice is calling on lawmakers to pass his clean 5 percent pay-raise bill, House Bill 2730, which is expected to be up for discussion Wednesday in the House Finance Committee.

“I hope to goodness it'll fly through the House,” Justice said.

The West Virginia House of Delegates will have a public hearing Friday at 8 a.m. on Justice's bill.

Justice said while he would definitely have vetoed the education omnibus bill as it stood Tuesday, he is willing to consider the state's first charter schools on a limited pilot program and education savings accounts.

Jim Justice

Teachers unions oppose complex legislation under consideration that, among other things, would create those charter schools and allow education savings accounts for parents to pay for private school.

The unions believe charter schools would erode traditional public education, but bill advocates say they would give parents more school choices. Charter school laws have been enacted in 43 other states and Washington, D.C.

There is still some uncertainty with what could actually happen with Senate Bill 451. House members could bring the bill back to life through the end of the night Wednesday. Amendments could also bring it back, in parts, through the end of the session.

Every indication right now is that the House plans to move forward with another plan.

House Finance Chairman Eric Householder said the House Finance Committee will move ahead with a straight 5 percent pay raise proposed by Justice instead of resurrecting Senate Bill 451. The Senate could always amend its bill, adding portions of the education omnibus bill back in.

"I've had the bill for a while, in our possession, and I think, if anything, the speaker indicated he would like for me to proceed with it," Householder said.

Householder said the straight pay-raise bill will be taken up in committee Wednesday.

On Tuesday, hundreds of teachers from across the state packed into the upper Rotunda, mirroring last year‘s statewide teacher strike. In 2018, teachers and service workers won a 5 percent raise following a nine-day strike.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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