By SOPHIA CONSTANTINO
After nearly a week of teacher walkouts throughout West Virginia, schools remained closed today and have been preemptively cancelled for tomorrow despite talks of an agreement to get teachers back in the classrooms.
The strikes began after Governor Jim Justice signed off on legislation that would grant teachers a two percent pay increase in July followed by a one percent increase over the next two years. The bill failed to address the state’s insufficient insurance program, a tax on payroll deductions, and the ever-rising cost of health care.
Considering that the state is ranked 49/50 in economy, 44/50 in health care, and 45/50 in education according to U.S. News, the subsequent rallies and strikes demanding stronger programs for educators are perhaps not expected expected, but comprehensible.
Though Wednesday was supposed to serve as a recovery day post-negotiations and Thursday a return to schedule normalcy, Justice’s announcement of his newest deal made on Tuesday sparked greater dissent than settlement. The new bill included a teacher pay increase by five percent, but again made no improvements to the teachers’ insurance program, which was the main concern of the first bill. School, then, was not in session today as legislators hoped.
Teachers instead crowd the state capitol today, holding signs proclaiming “No deal!” and “Will teach for insurance.”
According to CNN, Justice defended his attempts at compromise from the back of an SUV through a crowd of protesters, stating, “I’m not the king. I’m doing what all I can possibly do.”
President of the Senate Mitch Carmichael similarly expressed concerns to CNN that the state simply does not have the money to fund the raises.
As the news media scramble to grab hold of an ever-changing wreck of developments in the situation, sources like CNN, NPR, and WV Public Radio are doing an impressive job of keeping stories current.
Wrap-up reports went out last night that finally, school would be back in session and today, the news media have taken a whole new angle on the relentlessness of the strikes. This story has quickly become and defiantly remained one to watch; it looks as though the news media has every intention of keeping it that way.