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March 7, 1990: Public School Teachers Strike

This Week in West Virginia History is a co-production of West Virginia Public Broadcasting and the West Virginia Humanities Council.
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On March 7, 1990, thousands of West Virginia public school teachers—involving 47 of the state’s 55 counties—began an 11-day strike. They were protesting what were then among the lowest salaries in the nation. Timed to coincide with the end of the legislative session, it was the first statewide teachers’ strike in West Virginia history.

The work stoppage occurred after the teachers failed to agree on a new pay package with the governor’s office and legislature. The strike ended on March 17, when House Speaker Chuck Chambers, Senate President Keith Burdette, and teachers’ union leaders reached a settlement. The legislative leaders—with the support of Governor Gaston Caperton—agreed to improve teachers’ pay and to develop short-term and long-term plans for public education.

Governor Caperton initiated a series of town-hall-style meetings across the state to discuss the future of education, and, in August, the legislature met in special session to address the issue.

Over the next three years, teachers’ salaries were increased, faculty senates were established in each school, and new teacher training and support programs were developed to promote better classroom instruction.

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