We all know the pain and frustration felt across West Virginia among teachers, parents, and students. We also see working families coming together to demand dignity for West Virginia educators, who haven't seen a pay raise in years.
What's less clear: How West Virginia got in this position. Let's take a quick look back at some of the events that led to the teachers' strike:
From the Charleston Mail-Gazette, Nov. 15, 2017
Angry teachers, public employees object to proposed PEIA benefits cuts
By Phil Kabler
Weary of seeing their health insurance benefits cut a little more each year, teachers, public employees and retirees turned out in Charleston Wednesday evening to tell the Public Employees Insurance Agency Finance Board that “enough is enough.”
“It’s time that we as public employees, as educators in West Virginia, unite and say, we’re not going to take this anymore,” West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said at the last of five public hearings on the latest proposed cuts in PEIA coverage.
Many speakers Wednesday said the proposal to shrink PEIA’s salary-based premium scale from 10 tiers to three, and to change family coverage from a flat rate to a pay-by-person charge will hurt young teachers and public employees at the bottom of already low salary scales.
“It makes sense to me that if you’re in a higher [salary] tier, you should pay more than some of our beginning teachers, who aren’t here tonight because they’re probably working a second job,” said Fred Albert, president of the Kanawha County branch of the American Federation of Teachers.
Several speakers cited low pay, coupled with annual cuts in what had been comparatively good benefits, as the reason why there are hundreds of unfilled teaching positions in public schools, and hundreds of job vacancies across state government, including Corrections and regional jails. Many blamed the Legislature for perennially underfunding salaries and benefits.