How We Got Here: The Strike Begins - West Virginia Strong

How We Got Here: The Strike Begins

John Raby, the Associated Press

How We Got There: The Strike Begins

After years of struggle over rising health costs and frozen wages -- West Virginia is near the very bottom of states for teacher pay-- the teachers of West Virginia called a strike for Thursday, February 22, 2018. The historic strike would affect hundreds of thousands of public school kids and families across all 55 counties of the state.

State officials reacted with restrained caution as the strike was technically illegal, but teachers packed the capitol building in Charleston in a show of remarkable solidarity.

Robert Ray, the Associated Press

At this moment, no one knew the outcome. Everyone knew, however: there had to be a change.

‘They have had it’: West Virginia teachers strike, closing all public schools

By Sarah Larimer
The Washington Post

Teachers across West Virginia walked off the job Thursday amid a dispute over pay and benefits, causing more than 277,000 public school students to miss classes even as educators swarmed the state Capitol in Charleston to protest.

All 55 counties in the state closed schools during Thursday’s work stoppage, Alyssa Keedy, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Education, said.

“Work stoppages by public employees are not lawful in West Virginia and will have a negative impact on student instruction and classroom time,” West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine said in a statement this week. “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.”

Data from the National Education Association show that in 2016, West Virginia ranked 48th in average teacher salaries. Only Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Dakota sat below it in the rankings, which included 50 states and the District.

Thousands of demonstrators flooded the state’s Capitol on Thursday, said Kym Randolph, West Virginia Education Association director of communication. Lines snaked around the building, she said, with some people waiting more than two hours to get in. The crowd was mostly constituted of teachers, but included parents and students, she said.

“The place was packed,” Randolph said. “It was very loud. That is by far the largest crowd inside the Capitol in a long, long time.”


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