West Virginia Raises Teachers’ Pay to End Statewide Strike - West Virginia Strong

West Virginia Raises Teachers’ Pay to End Statewide Strike

Photo Credit: Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail

Photo Credit: Craig Hudson/Charleston Gazette-Mail

By JESS BIDGOOD

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The statewide teachers’ strike that has shuttered West Virginia schools for almost two weeks moved closer to a resolution on Tuesday when the House and Senate passed a bill to give all state workers, including teachers, a 5 percent pay raise.

Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, announced the deal to hundreds of teachers who had gathered outside the State Senate on Tuesday morning, clad in the red T-shirts that have come to symbolize their strike. Their cheers filled the Capitol, but they immediately began to chant: “Put it in writing!”

Unlike a previous 5 percent pay raise that was backed by Mr. Justice and the State House of Representatives, the deal reached on Tuesday had the support of Mitch Carmichael, the president of the more conservative State Senate. Mr. Carmichael said it would probably lead to painful cuts in other parts of the state budget; another Republican senator, Craig Blair, said in a conference committee that Medicaid would be among the areas cut.

“These things come at a cost,” Mr. Carmichael said.

The State House moved swiftly to take up the new bill, and passed it unanimously before noon; the State Senate soon followed suit. Both chambers are controlled by the Republicans. The governor was expected to sign the bill later on Tuesday.

Dale Lee, the president of the West Virginia Education Association, one of the state teachers’ unions, said the deal was enough to get teachers back to the classroom once legislators enacted the raise.

“It appears the strike will end,” Mr. Lee said after the deal was announced, adding, “I’m expecting the kids to be back some time this week.”

In addition to raises, the teachers have also demanded some relief from sharply rising health insurance costs. The governor has promised to address that issue through a state task force.

Danielle Harris, a third-grade teacher from Fayette County who was protesting at the State Capitol on Tuesday, grew teary as Mr. Justice announced the deal.

“Maybe our voices are being heard, finally,” Ms. Harris said. “These strikes aren’t for nothing.”

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