West Virginia Teachers Scored a Victory But Will Remain on Strike
Just hours after West Virginia teachers walked out of their classrooms, lawmakers effectively killed the controversial education bill that had prompted the second statewide strike in two years.
Yet teachers in the state will continue to strike for a second day, union leaders announced on Tuesday evening to a crowd of cheering educators.
"I think it's very clear here tonight, and it's clear across this state, there's a trust issue" between educators and the state legislature, said Joe White, the executive director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, in a press conference. "The trust is not there."
This strike comes a year after West Virginia teachers shut down schools for nine days over low wages, which ultimately resulted in a 5 percent pay raise. This time, they're striking over a bill that would have included another 5 percent pay raise—but also included controversial provisions, such as creating up to seven charter schools and 1,000 education savings accounts to allow parents to pay for private school. (The accounts would have been for students with special needs or those who have been bullied.)
There are currently no charter schools in West Virginia, and teachers' unions in the state have said the bill would take away resources from public schools.
The state House of Delegates voted 53-45 to table the bill indefinitely, showing the power that protesting teachers have. Still, teachers are worried that a lawmaker will file a motion to reconsider tabling the bill.
I've talked to several teachers who say they just don't trust legislators that the bill is dead. One group of teachers said just now there's nothing leadership can do to earn their trust back right now, and they just want the clock to run out tomorrow so it can't be reconsidered.-- Jake Jarvis (@JakeJarvisWV) February 19, 2019
On Tuesday, all but one of West Virginia's 55 counties canceled school. It remains to be seen how many school districts will close again Wednesday.
West Virginia teachers launched the wave of teacher activism last year with their nine-day strike. Their success was the match that lit a wildfire—teachers in five other states staged large-scale demonstrations last year. This year, the teacher activism has continued in Virginia, Los Angeles, and Denver. Teachers in Oakland, Calif., are planning to go on strike on Thursday, and Sacramento teachers are weighing a potential strike as well.
Image: Striking West Virginia teachers and supporters rally outside the House of Delegates chambers Feb. 19, at the state Capitol. —John Raby/AP