Neighboring West Virginia teachers walked the picket line yesterday, and again today, nearly a year to the day after the start of a nine-day strike for better pay and a voice in the classroom made headlines across the nation. But this work stoppage is not about pay, say striking school employees, but about legislation that would harm public education and put even more money in the hands of private charter schools to the detriment of West Virginia's students. Some are calling the bill "retribution" for last year's strike, which inspired teachers across the nation to stand up for their rights in 2018.
“What’s different about this year is it is not about us, it’s about our students,” Melissa Huffman, a teacher at Clendenin Elementary School said. “What the legislature is trying to do is not good for students, not good for West Virginia."
Public educators and school service personnel across the nation continue to be the glimmer of hope and solidarity that the labor movement has needed; to show that public workers are essential and that their voices are loud and cannot be ignored.
And this was the case yesterday, when the education work stoppage stopped the dangerous bill in its tracks, despite legislators (and political pundits) thinking it was a slam dunk for passage. After pressure and lobbying by public school employees, a motion was made to table the bill indefinitely...and that motion passed. The WV Governor has called on lawmakers to support a clean bill that includes only the pay raise, not privatization.
WV union leaders continue to monitor the bill and will strike until it is absolutely, positively dead on arrival. "We cannot trust the leadership in the Senate," said Fred Albert, president of the WV chapter of the American Federation of Teachers. "We are staying out one more day to ensure that this is a dead bill."
“Teachers have said the values are more important of making sure that public education is a priority in this state. Funding public education and don’t siphon money out of it. Don’t take away our voices. They are saying that that is more important that getting a raise,” said Randi Weingarten, the national AFT President, at a rally in Charleston, WV on Tuesday.
“[The bill] should have gone to conference committee but, instead, the Senate decided to go back to its retaliatory, anti-public education, anti-teacher bill, and that is why teachers all across West Virginia—bus drivers, school secretaries, para-professionals—have converged on Charleston, because they don’t have a choice,” Weingarten said. "You are at storming the Capitol, being in front of them, telling truth to the power to say ‘No we need public education,'” she said.
Read more - This time, it wasn’t about pay: West Virginia teachers go on strike over the privatization of public education (and they won’t be the last) - WaPo