Earlier today, West Virginia legislators agreed to a pay hike of 5 percent for state employees, including teachers. Educators in the state have been on strike since February 22, protesting for higher pay and respite from soaring health insurance costs.
West Virginia teachers are among the lowest paid in the U.S., according to data from the National Education Association, and haven’t received a raise in four years prior to the strike.
Gov. Jim Justice announced the deal this morning to striking teachers outside the State Senate, and was greeted with cheers and chants of, “Put it in writing!” An earlier version of the deal had the support of the governor and the State House of Representatives, but not the more conservative State Senate.
Gov. Justice is expected to sign the bill today.
I’m an educator, I believe in your purpose, I believe in you, and I love our kids. pic.twitter.com/vcjy6z0Jgt
— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) March 6, 2018
Mitch Carmichael, the president of the State Senate, warned that the pay hike would require cuts in other parts of the budget – including cuts to Medicaid, per another State Senator. Gov. Justice insists that cuts will not affect programs for low-income West Virginians.
“A Huge Victory and Symbol of Respect”
Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, called the resolution a “huge victory and symbol of respect for every teacher and school support staff member in the state.”
Campbell said in a statement:
Thousands of educators and their supporters came to the state Capitol for the last week to ensure the public and the legislature understand how important their jobs are and that they have been underpaid and undervalued. The strike and its strong outcome should be seen as a shot across the bow to every lawmaker who may underestimate the support teachers have, the hard job they do and their willingness to stand up for what they deserve as they educate the next generation.
Gov. Justice has also promised to form a task force to address health care costs.
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