West Virginia public schools closed for nine school days in February and March as school staff and supporters, motivated by demands for better wages and benefits for teachers, took to the capitol in Charleston. According to the National Education Association, an average West Virginia teacher’s salary is $45,701, compared to a nationwide average of $58,950.
The protests led the legislature and Gov. Jim Justice to give state personnel a 3 percent raise and school employees a 5 percent raise for the coming school year. This came after Justice’s proposal of a 2 percent raise for the next year followed by two years of 1 percent raises did not end the strike. Before the walkouts, the state Senate had also passed a bill to give teachers a 1 percent raise each year for five years.
After the strike, the governor created a task force to examine the union’s concerns about the state employee health insurance program. — Shelby Jones