Gov. Justice: W.Va. Teachers Strike Comes to End; Teachers to Return to Classroom Thursday

Photo by Scott McCloskey Hundreds of school employees attended a speech by W.Va. Gov. Jim Justice on Monday morning at Wheeling Park High School.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice this evening announced that teachers would be returning to the classroom on Thursday, ending a four-day strike by teachers and school service personnel across all 55 counties.

Justice, after meeting for hours with the heads of the West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, said he would ask the Legislature for a 3 percent raise for all state employees, and an additional 2 percent for teachers.

Justice had signed across-the-board teacher pay raises of $808 next year and $404 the following two years. But teachers had said the increases weren’t enough, especially as health care costs rise. The state’s average teacher pay ranks among the lowest in the nation.

The governor’s chief of staff, Mike Hall, says the latest pay raise proposal is based on revised revenue estimates of $58 million in additional tax income based on economic forecasts.

The pay increases would have to be approved by the Legislature.

Highlights of Justice’s news conference:

School closed Wednesday for cooling-off period

A task force will be created to look into solutions for PEIA health care costs

The issue of co-tenancy in the natural gas industry won’t be tied to possible severance tax increases.

Justice said the revised economic forecast is driven by the expected economic benefit of a road bond approved by voters, and most construction projects haven’t yet started.

Tax reform instituted this year by President Donald Trump also will have profound impact on the state’s economy, according to Justice.

Hall said $58 million is new revenue based on the most recent economic forecasts, although he acknowledged January projections were down.

“You can’t project an entire year’s revenue based on one month,” Hall said. “Our revenue people believe we are on track for the numbers that are there.”

Justice said money is “absolutely there.”