W. Va teachers strike still on after Senate votes to trim deal

An election official watches as a man takes a ballot at an in-person absentee voting station in Fairfax Virginia

The West Virginia House of Delegates issues a Refuse to Concur - To Senate amendment on HB4145 - Increasing the annual salaries of members of the West Virginia State Police, public school teachers and school service personnel.

Gov. Jim Justice on Tuesday had announced that the teachers' strike, which had kept 300,000 students out of classrooms, had come to an end after four days when the state agreed to give teachers a 5 percent raise of $2,020.

Brandon Wolford, president of Mingo County's branch of one of the striking unions told the Charleston Gazette-Mail "I relayed a message to our superintendent that I have had very few, maybe two or three, who said they wanted to go back to work, the rest are absolutely in opposition, 100 percent".

"At this point everybody's still prepared to be out for the long haul", said Julie Alderman, 35, a first-grade teacher in Logan County, in the state's southern section, who was waiting for a babysitter to arrive so she could head to Charleston, the capital. "We do not accept the 4 percent". According to a survey done by the Washington Post, America's teachers work an average of 53 hours a week, far more than the 40 many of them are paid for.

Justice, under pressure to get the state's 275,000 students back in schools, also proposed a 3% pay hike for all other state workers.

The Republican-controlled Senate voted Saturday evening to approve the lower pay raise, bucking teachers, Republican Gov. Jim Justice and the Republican-controlled House, which approved the 5 percent raise Wednesday.

But the procedural matters worked out for Senate leaders; the real bill with the 4% raise was voted on again, and passed. The Senate's Republicans did that, carrying the 20-13 vote.

But the state Senate rejected a plan to summarily approve the deal, instead sending it to a committee that is not scheduled to meet this week. "I've always been a glass half full kind of guy", said Delegate Bill Anderson, R-Wood, one of the House designees to the conference committee.

Although Republicans now control both chambers of the statehouse, the tax cuts that squeezed the state budget were a bipartisan undertaking.

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Also on today's show, higher education institutions across southern West Virginia are joining forces to invest in the region's economic development.

"What people have got to understand is that this is not something that has happened overnight", he said Friday. "We did not see that coming".

The hike proposed in the bill hinges on new projected state revenue numbers that the governor announced earlier this week.

"We just have lawyers arguing", said Evans as he waited. Receipts would offset rising costs for all workers covered by the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

"It doesn't force them to make any tough decisions".

They're saying we can't afford it.

"I will not be a party to pitting our state employees against our teachers", Justice stated.

Educators, school staff and their supporters have descended on the state Capitol, holding daily rallies outside legislative chambers where they chant "55 United", a reference to West Virginia's 55 counties.

As of Friday, teachers across the state were still on picket lines and protesting at the state capitol. Teachers have promised to pay close attention to each lawmaker's actions and vote accordingly.

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