All Public Schools in West Virginia Close Amid Teacher Walkouts

Teachers are demanding higher wages and health insurance coverage. West Virginia teacher pay ranks 48th nationally

Every public school in the state of West Virginia was closed Thursday and was set to be closed again Friday as teachers staged walkouts, demanding higher wages and health insurance coverage.

Teachers across the state's 55 counties protested in front of their schools and then assembled in Charleston to walk to the state Capitol. 

Dozens of teachers rallied along a road in Belle, West Virginia, near Riverside High School, holding signs saying “Enough is enough." American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten joined the group.

In Charleston, teachers sought to pressure lawmakers who were still considering other proposals for them. Chants of "Do your job so I can do mine" reverberated throughout the Capitol halls.

Gov. Jim Justice on Wednesday night signed a 2 percent raise next year for teachers, followed by 1 percent raises the following two years. But teachers say the increases are too stingy. They also complain about projected increases in health insurance costs.

On Tuesday, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine said he was working with teachers to reach a resolution as soon as possible.

"Work stoppages by public employees are not lawful in West Virginia and will have a negative impact on student instruction and classroom time," he said in a statement


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"Families will be forced to seek out alternative safe locations for their children, and our many students who depend on schools for daily nutrition will face an additional burden. I encourage our educators to advocate for the benefits they deserve, but to seek courses of action that have the least possible disruption for our students," he continued.  

West Virginia teacher pay ranks 48th nationally. The teachers last went on strike statewide in 1990.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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