W.Va. Teachers To Vote on ’19 Work Stoppage

Photo Courtesy/WV Legislative Photography Del. Mick Bates, D-Raleigh, shows off his “Our Students First” pin on the House floor to show solidarity with teachers and school service personnel.

WHEELING — A work stoppage by West Virginia’s public school teachers may once again be on the table as the teachers continue to oppose many of the provisions of an omnibus education bill being debated by state lawmakers.

This week local teachers unions in each county district will gather and vote on whether or not to give their leadership permission “authorize and action on their behalf — be it a work stoppage, or anything, really,” explained Jenny Craig, president of the Ohio County Education Association.

She said a meeting of the teachers has been scheduled, but she doesn’t wish to make the time or place of the private meeting known to the public.

Last year, the teachers walked out for nine days, seeking higher pay and a fix for rising premiums through the Public Employees Insurance Administration. In the end, they and all state employees would gain a 5 percent raise from the action.

This year, the omnibus education bill contains another 5 percent raise for teachers, but also a number of proposals opposed by the West Virginia Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association.

Among these are the elimination of caps on class size, and the establishment of charter schools program in West Virginia.

Teachers will be provided information this weekend to read prior to deciding their vote, according to Craig.

“After that, actions will be dependent each day on the progression of the bill,” she said. “We will continue to push back against privitization, and public money coming out of the public school system. This is a very dangerous provision of the bill.

“Even though this bill does good things, there are things we are unwilling to give up for students.”

She commended a proposed amendment proposed Friday by Sen. William Ihlenfeld, D-Ohio, that would have eliminated a section of the bill pertaining to the establishment of educational savings accounts.

The bill calls for the state to place $3,200 in each of these accounts, which could be used by the parent or guardian of a student to pay for non-public education from private, religious or on-line sources.

Ihlenfeld’s amendment failed before the Senate.

There also has been no progression on finding a steady funding source for PEIA, according to Craig. She said teachers are continuing to push for a funding mechanism that is “not a source that taxes West Virginians.”

Last year, the teachers backed a plan for raising the state’s severance tax on gas and oil 2.5 percent from 5 percent to 7.5 percent.

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