School teachers and service personnel from all fifty-five counties of West Virginia are taking part in a walkout tomorrow, effectively shutting down the state’s school system. The move comes after weeks of protests by teachers and public employees over lawmakers’ reluctance to fully fund the Public Employees Insurance Agency as well as increase pay.
Governor Jim Justice proposed freezing PEIA, which would delay previously approved cost increases for employees for one year. Justice wants to use that time to work out a permanent solution. Teachers and employees, however, are not satisfied with the short-term fix. Many of protesters are carrying signs that read “A Freeze Is Not A Fix.”
Teachers and public employees are also protesting low pay increases. A bill proposing a 2% raise followed by three 1% raises is stuck in the State Senate. A previous bill that called for a 3% increase followed by two 1% raises was rejected.
In 1990, when wage negotiations with the State Legislature failed, teachers at more than half of West Virginia’s public schools took part in an eleven-day walkout. The Legislature at the time convened a special session to work out an agreement.