WV Teacher Strike Ends; Pay Hikes Approved

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West Virginia's teachers have been among the lowest paid in the nation and haven't had a salary increase in four years.

Erick Burgess, a teacher from Mercer County, said he was pleased with the salary increase and hoped the teachers' actions in West Virginia would inspire educators elsewhere. The Senate followed, voting 34-0. Later, Gov. Jim Justice signed House Bill 4145 into law during an afternoon press conference.

Average teacher pay past year in the state was $45,783, while the national average hovers around $58,000. Currently, the plan has been frozen from further changes for 16 months.

West Virginia legislators plan to meet Tuesday in search of a compromise that could end the strike by West Virginia teachers, now entering its ninth day.

That case pits Mark Janus, an employee of the Illinois Department of Healthcare and Family Services, against the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Council 31, the union that represents Janus and some 40,000 other state workers.

News of an agreement first began to circulate the morning of March 6.

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"We have reached a deal", Justice tweeted. Gov. Jim Justice, (R) West Virginia, had proposed paying for the raise with $52 million in projected revenue increases from the Consumer Sales Tax and Personal Income Tax.

Both houses of the Legislature suspended rules and passed the bill by 1 p.m.

In an impressive show of force and solidarity, they effectively staged a strike that includes three unions and all 55 countywide school districts in the state.

The teacher walkout began February 22, and during its nine-day span has affected an estimated 277,000 students and 35,000 school employees.

As the bill was being debated in the Senate last week, Tom Huber, president of the West Virginia Royalty Owners Association told NGI's Shale Dailythat the bill appealed to members in part because it would provide adequate protections for nonconsenting landowners.

A huge crowd of teachers packing the Capitol jumped up and down, chanted "We love our kids!" and singing John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads". "That for teachers to stay in our profession, for bus drivers and support staff to stay and do this work, we need a livable wage, and we need the conditions in schools that we can help kids thrive".

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West Virginia employs around 20,000 teachers.

But the deal only covers half of what the teachers participating in a nine-day strike were asking for.

The teachers were adamant, though, that hollowing out education was no way to bring West Virginia back. Given that about 75% of teachers are women nationwide and in West Virginia, this lack of investment in the educational pipeline appears to have a stranglehold on the state's ability to influence its own future positively.

A conference committee of six House and Senate members met for the second time Monday evening, where Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns said his chamber's leadership was offering "a compromise position".

Senate leaders, however, announced support for the latest plan Tuesday, promising to find money in the budget to fund all the pay hikes.

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