Union leader Dale Lee said the salary increase was an ‘investment in West Virginia’ [John Raby/AP Photo]
West Virginia teachers and politicians have come to an agreement to end a nine-day strike over demands for higher wages, better benefits and increased incentives to help fill the roughly 700 teaching vacancies in the state.
West Virginia Governor James Justice II said on Tuesday morning the tentative agreement will allow for the five percent pay increase teachers demanded. The money will come from budget cuts from his staff.
The bill passed the West Virginia Senate by a vote of 98 to one. Republicans in the Senate said it would entail “reduced government”, one of their legislative goals.
The bill still needs to pass the lower house of the West Virginia legislature, the House of Delegates.
‘Real winners are students’
Leaders from the three unions representing teachers gathered outside the state senate to address a crowd of hundreds of teachers and activists rallying to pressure the state legislator to pass a bill that would put teachers back in the classroom.
“You have had a victory … but the real winners of all of this are the students of West Virginia. We’re making an investment in their future by investing in education,” West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said to the crowd.
West Virginia teachers walked out of the classroom last week after months of negotiations over wages and benefits.
All schools in the state have been closed since February 22. It was the first teachers’ strike in West Virginia since 1990.
West Virginia employs around 20,000 teachers.
The community rallied around both teachers and students. Food banks were opened to make sure students who depended on school-provided meals during the day would not go hungry.
Lee thanked the community and asked them to express gratitude to Justice for “making an investment in West Virginia”.