West Virginia Teachers Are Going on Strike Again
Almost one year after West Virginia teachers across the state went on strike for nine days, the teachers' unions in the state have called for another statewide work stoppage.
Teachers will walk out of their classrooms on Tuesday, leaders of the West Virginia Education Association, the state's chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association announced in a Monday press conference.
By Monday evening, all but one of the state's 55 school districts announced they would be closed Tuesday.
Teachers are striking over an omnibus education bill that would boost teacher pay by 5 percent, but includes provisions fiercely opposed by many teachers, including the expansion of charter schools and the establishment of education savings accounts, which allow students to use public money for private education. (The accounts would be for students with special needs and for students who have been bullied.) Gov. Jim Justice has pledged to veto the bill if it arrives on his desk.
The state House of Delegates scaled back many of the controversial provisions last week. But on Monday, state senators introduced an amendment to create up to 1,000 education savings accounts and up to seven charter schools, according to the West Virginia Metro News. The amendment hasn't yet passed, but teachers' union officials said they felt like they were not being listened to by lawmakers.
It's not yet clear whether this will be an extended strike, like last year. Union leaders say they plan to assess on a day-to-day basis, reported Jake Jarvis, a reporter from the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
Teacher strikes are illegal in West Virginia, but teachers last year were supported by school leaders and the community.
The 2018 West Virginia teacher strike resulted in a 5 percent pay raise, and set off a wave of large-scale teacher activism in another five states across the country. This year, teacher strikes have continued in cities like Los Angeles and Denver. Teachers in Oakland, Calif., are planning to strike on Thursday.
Image: Jennifer Hanner, a teacher from Harts, W.Va., center, holds a sign last year. —John Raby/AP