POINT PLEASANT — Earlier in the week, West Virginia’s House approved a 5 percent pay raise negotiated by Gov. Jim Justice which has stalled in the State Senate with no funding fix to the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) in near sight.
Mason County Schools have been closed over a week due to a statewide work stoppage.
On Friday, Point Pleasant Intermediate School Fifth Grade Teachers Carrie Burns and Donna Surface commented the 5 percent pay raise is simply not enough and the teachers of West Virginia are not going to back down until they are satisfied with a decision that includes a PEIA funding solution. Teachers across the state are protesting stagnant wages and increasing insurance premiums. Without a PEIA fix, raises would do little to nothing to offset rising insurance costs, many have argued.
Burns shared many of the Mason County Schools Staff were at the Capitol on Friday with Superintendent Jack Cullen, while others stood outside their schools continuing to locally raise awareness.
“Mason County is very fortunate that we have the support of our superintendent and administrators,” said Burns.
Burns and Surface agreed the teachers of all 55 counties of West Virginia are wanting a definite solution to fix the pay rate issue and the PEIA issue.
Surface commented on the proposed changes of combining the wages of a husband and wife to base the insurance premium cost, rather than just the wages of the insurance holder meaning the cost of premiums could be doubled or even tripled. Though the PEIA Finance Board has agreed to freeze the current health care plan for state workers for a period of time, freezing is not a fix, according to teachers and service personnel. Burns said if the PEIA is not fixed, the 5 percent raise will not be helpful to the them, Surface added if PEIA stays frozen, the teachers of West Virginia will end up being in the same predicament they are now.
“We all want to know that it’s really going to happen..the government will fix PEIA and grant us a pay raise, and that is why we’re going to continue to be out here…we want something definite…the Senate has not passed it yet and that is why we are still continuing to picket,” Burns said.
“That is not a permanent fix, that’s the problem,” added Surface.
With the legislative session coming to a close this month, Surface said she feels the teachers of West Virginia will stand as they are until they are given a definite solution.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer at Ohio Valley Publishig.
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