West Virginia educators make history, give lawmakers a civics lesson


Wyoming County's Mullens Elementary school teachers Kara Brown, from right, Katherine Dudley and Nina Tunstalle, along with Lois Casto of Central Elementary school in St. Albans, react to news that West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice and Senate Republicans have reached a tentative deal to end a strike by giving them 5 percent raises in Charleston, W.Va., on March 6, 2018. Now all it needs is the governor's signature.

Senate majority leader Ryan Ferns, (R) of Ohio County, said talks with the governor's office lasted into early Tuesday identifying cuts everyone could agree to. "Not only this, but my staff and I made additional cuts which will give all State employees 5% as well", Justice tweeted.

Here & Now's Peter O'Dowd speaks with Kevin Green, a teacher in Bradshaw, West Virginia. The money will come from budget cuts from his staff.

The mass walkout served as a warning to legislatures in other states and inspired teachers whose salaries also touch the pay floor. "All the focus should have always been on fairness and getting the kids back in school".

The union had been fighting for increased wages in a state where teacher pay is among the lowest for educators in the country, ranking 46th out of 50 states, according to the National Education Association.

"Once effective, this bill will allow more access to the enormous amount of natural gas we are sitting upon in West Virginia, which will provide even greater economic benefits to West Virginia and its citizens, and game changing opportunities for downstream uses of natural gas", Blankenship said Tuesday.

Blair said lawmakers would pay for the raise by cutting state spending by $20 million, taking funds from general services and Medicaid.

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"We need to return some sense of normalcy to the education process", Justice said.

In Oklahoma, teachers are weighing a possible walkout over budget cuts that have led to four-day school weeks in the state and teachers' average salaries trailing those in West Virginia.

"Teachers seem to be mistreated throughout the country, so we are hoping other teachers and other public employees step up and tell their government they have had enough", he said. But the Senate refused to go along, approving a 4 percent increase.

WVONGA, other industry groups and some of their members have said for years that the state's mineral laws had to be modernized to accommodate longer laterals and make the state more competitive with other energy producing states. "It shows (students) how democracy is supposed to work, that you don't just bow down and lay down for anybody".

"Teachers across the state came together for one goal", said another striking teacher, who stood near the state Capitol's soaring rotunda Tuesday.

Rachel Stringer, a a stay-at-home mom from Cross Lanes, said her biggest challenge is making sure her children don't forget what they've learned this school year. "It's not the raise as much as it is having the respect that we deserve from the government and I think that was proven today".

Missed school days will be made up, either at the end of the school year or by shortening spring break, depending on decisions by individual counties.