Less than a year after they first protested, West Virginia teachers went on strike again on Tuesday over complicated education legislation which they view as a threat to the inputs they proposed last year. Teachers and school support workers have initiated a nationwide retaliation in opposition to complicated legislation introduced in the Senate, including state’s first charter schools and parent’s education saving accounts .
Teachers from West Virginia and school support workers gathered on the streets outside schools with signs and packed the state Capitol on the very first day of the nationwide strike. Addressing the conference, the leaders of the three unions for teachers and the school service workers said they were not sure of how long the movement would continue, highlighting the seriousness of the matter at hand.
“We are left with no other choice,” said Fred Albert, president of the American federation of teachers’ West Virginia chapter. Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia education association, said on the basis of the actions of Senate, “it appears that they are more interested in listening to the outside interests than they are the educators across West Virginia. We will work as closely as we can to get a resolution, but at this point, there doesn’t seem to be a resolution”.
The 2018 walk-out included nationwide strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington State and other cities, most recently in Los Angeles and Denver. Almost all of West Virginia’s 55 counties cancelled public school classes on Tuesday. The only county where schools remained open was in Putnam County. The unions have said the lawmakers never requested for their insight into what had become a haste process in the Senate, which only just passed an amended bill on Monday and forwarded to the house of delegates.
One of the major bone of contention is the latest provision to create first charter schools in the state, which unions believe would wear down the traditional public education sector. However, the bill advocates that it would give more say to parents in terms of school choices. Charter school laws have been ratified in other 43 states, including Washington DC.
The Senate version would make provisions for up to seven charter schools across the state and would also provide for up to 1,000 education saving accounts for parents in order to pay for private schools. These accounts would cater to special needs students and the ones that have been bullied. The House version does not call for such saving based accounts and would limit charter schools to one each in the Cabell and Kanawha counties. The strikers fear that elimination of a prior clause by the Senate will possibly overturn the complete legislative measure, if any part knocks down.
Senate president Mitch Carmichael said the bill had set up a middle ground with “great provisions” and would allow teachers an additional five percent increase in salaries on top of the five percent raises they received after last year’s strike. The goal of the bill is “getting our education system out of the doldrums. Why would anyone want to stand in the status quo and stay in the past”? he added.