After nine missed school days due to the teacher work stoppage, public schools around the state reopened and students are back in the classroom as of Wednesday, Mar. 7. Those participating in the walkout were fighting for a five percent pay increase and permanent solutions to problems building with their insurance costs.
On Thursday, Feb. 22, public school teachers all over West Virginia, as well as other state employees, walked off the job in protest of a two percent pay raise proposed by Governor Jim Justice. Issues with the Public Health Insurance Agency (PEIA) also spurred the protest, as teachers’ unions declared the raises wouldn’t cover cost-of-living increases, and the Governor’s proposed bill didn’t address their concerns related to public employee insurance programs, health care costs, and payroll issues.
Thousands of protesters swarmed the Capitol in Charleston throughout the stoppage, letting their voices be heard. Media coverage of the strike went national. On a local level, teachers and state employees gathered in downtown Lewisburg holding signs regarding issues with PEIA and the pay raise.
On Tuesday, Mar. 6, Justice said he would propose the five percent pay increase, but state lawmakers still had to approve the bill. The proposed raise passed the House of Delegates, but the Senate was resisting, wanting to approve a four percent increase instead. Some confusion occurred earlier in the week on Mar. 3 when the Senate accidently passed what they believed to be a four percent increase proposal, but was actually a five percent increase. Ultimately, on Mar. 6, the Governor, the Senate, and the House all passed the sought-after five percent increase (intentionally, this time).
Students and teachers alike were eager to return to the classroom following the stoppage. There will be flexibility with making up the missed days of school, with Greenbrier County Public Schools sharing a survey on their Facebook page so parents could share their thoughts about modifications to the spring break schedule. Official make-up days have not been announced as of press time.