W.Va. Will be 'Shut Down' Next Week in Statewide Walkout
Updated Feb. 25 7:30 p.m.
According to the state Department of Education's website Sunday night ,schools will be closed in at least 51 of West Virginia's 55 counties Monday.
A statewide walkout has been announced for teachers and other state employees for Thursday and Friday next week. The announcement was made during a weekend rally at the state Capitol in Charleston.
Christine Campbell, President of the West Virginia chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, stood at a podium on the Capitol steps as she announced the walkout.
An estimated 10,000 teachers, state workers and supporters came out on a cold, rainy Saturday to send a message to their lawmakers. They demanded higher wages and a long-term fix to rising health insurance premiums.
Lisa Stillion is a health science teacher at Wheeling Park High School. She drove from Ohio County to attend the rally and deliver a message to her lawmakers.
“I think what the Legislature is doing is just despicable. We need to vote them out. Get your heads out of your rear ends; be thinking about who you represent. You work for us. We don’t work for you,” she said.
A bill to increase wages for teachers and other state employees has been moving through the legislative process, but after changes made in the House of Delegates, it was moved to a Rules Committee in the Senate last week.
The bill, as it left the House, would raise salaries by two percent in the first year, and then one percent in each of the following three years.
House lawmakers also voted to apply $29 million from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to freeze insurance rates for teachers and state workers for the next fiscal year.
But teachers and other state employees say it isn’t enough. A representative from the United Mine Workers of America, along with several other speakers, encouraged those at the rally to not stand down.
“So let me ask you, are you ready to raise some hell?" asked a UMWA representative, "Are you ready to fight? I said are you ready to fight?”
The West Virginia American Federation of Teachers’ chapter is encouraging all those participating in the walkout to come to the state Capitol to have their voices heard.