Teacher Walkout will see Mineral County Schools Closed Thursday and Friday

Lawmakers' Proposals Unlikely to Calm WV Teachers, School Workers

Asked by reporters about the legality of today's action, West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said, "What are they going to do, fire 15,000 people?" Teachers, service personnel, and representatives from Wetzel and Tyler counties were among those.

The employees will receive a two percent raise in the upcoming year and a one percent raise next year, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail. They also approved a 2 percent raise for school service personnel and state troopers next year and a 1 percent bump the next year.

Ted Cheatham, director of that agency, has said that because of medical inflation, about $50 million to $70 million would be needed annually to keep the program functioning as it now does. The central issue is teacher pay.

Don Scalise, a government and history teacher at Cabell Midland High School, told HuffPost that health insurance used to be a bright spot for West Virginia teachers, despite the lower salaries.

The group plans to spend some time at the school before heading to the state Capitol in Charleston for a much larger rally with teachers across West Virginia. There have been one-day walkouts and "blue flus" since that time.

Despite heavy rains and flooding, Wetzel County Schools personnel braved the elements and held informational pickets on February 16, outside of the county's schools. The work stoppage, though temporary, is meant as a shot across the bow to legislators. Mason County Schools Superintendent Jack Cullen said on Monday, no decision had been made about canceling classes in regard to the proposed statewide walkout later this week.

Wager said that as more information becomes available, parents will be notified of any school closures. Therefore, the schools closed.

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"This is refreshing. We know the governor has been talking about it, but this actually feels like walking the walk and saying we do want to keep teachers in West Virginia". But union officials have said that's not a sufficient fix.

But a week later the board came around and passed a resolution declaring that it "supports our employees in their efforts to receive higher wages and medical benefits commensurate with their commitment to our children". Due to press deadlines, the Wetzel Chronicle will have more on the February 19 resolution on its website at www.wetzelchronicle.com and in next week's February 28 Chronicle.

The legislature has been working on a solution, but teachers say the current proposals just kick the can down the road. Stories like these have prompted at least three other states -Oklahoma, Montana and New Jersey - to make necessary code changes by passing legislation like Delegate VanValkenburg's. Notably, this resolution was drafted by Wetzel County Board of Education President Warren Grace and Wetzel County Board of Education member Amy Cooley. Issac Sponaugle said what lawmakers have accomplished so far this session still isn't enough.

February 17, a Saturday, saw the biggest action yet. This adds to the teacher shortage cycle, and then students do not receive the quality education they deserve.

A proposed increase in employee contributions to state insurance (PEIA) "will place an additional financial burden on all current and retired educators". Schools and organizations with "backpack" programs that weekly send some kids home with food packed up extra and gave them out Wednesday.

Associated Press reports and Beth Sergent contributed to this article.

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