Last February, teachers’ unions across the state of West Virginia went on strike for 13 consecutive days. Their goal was to improve public school teachers’ salaries and insurance benefits. Teachers across the state commanded a pay raise of five percent for each and every teacher, an improvement of roughly $2,000 per teacher.
The February 2018 walkout prompted a rash of strikes by primary and secondary school teachers across the United States, including those carried out by teachers of districts in Arizona, Oklahoma, Colorado, California, and Kentucky. More than 20,000 teachers across the small state of West Virginia successfully led an effort that rose West Virginia’s teachers’ salaries from the lowest in the United States to considerably closer towards the national average.
Although the aforementioned teachers’ unions across the state of West Virginia largely succeeded in last year’s strike, they are now ready to go on strike again. According to leaders from across the state’s teachers’ unions, the strike will protest a bill proposed by the Republican-led West Virginia Legislature.
The bill has a number of problems with it, according to teachers who are going on strike tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. One of the issues with the bill is that state congresspeople will be able to profit from transactions and policy changes related to charter schools. Heavily influenced by lobbyists, members of the West Virginia Legislature could make decisions in favor of charter schools that could harm the livelihood of public schools across the state.
Another issue that teachers are taking with the bill is that it gives 1,000 households the money to pay for private school via education savings accounts. Also known as private school vouchers, such programs are protested by advocates of public schools because they funnel money into private schools that is routinely sourced from taxpayers’ money.
Of the 54 counties in West Virginia, only Putnam County’s schools will be open today, Tuesday, Feb. 19. Putnam County is home to roughly 55,000 people, which equates to roughly three percent of the total population of West Virginia.
One of the largest issues with the bill is that it grants the opportunity for charter schools to be created. If passed, a maximum of seven could be founded across the state. Charter schools are those that source funding from the government but follow their own rules that are entirely separate of the government. These schools are largely against the views of public school advocates.