MASON COUNTY — A statewide walkout by teachers and service personnel in West Virginia has been called for this Thursday and Friday.
According to the Associated Press, the decision to hold the walkout this Thursday and Friday was announced by the American Federal of Teachers-West Virginia and the West Virginia Education Association at a rally at the state Capitol on Saturday. School teachers and service personnel continue to protest what they feel is low pay, projected hikes in health insurance costs and small proposed pay hikes.
The decision as to whether or not classes will be canceled Thursday and Friday will fall to area superintendents. Mason County Schools Superintendent Jack Cullen said on Monday, no decision had been made about canceling classes in regard to the proposed statewide walkout later this week.
“If there is an agreement (between union leadership and the legislature) reached before Thursday, we will be in school…if not, we will be out,” Cullen said.
Cullen said he would wait on the outcome of any agreement, or lack thereof, until around 3 p.m. on Wednesday, when he would announce whether or not classes would be canceled.
Classes were canceled for today (Tuesday) due to continued high water throughout the county, which has made many roads impassable.
As previously reported, teachers and public employees have been demonstrating for weeks, including a large protest at the Capitol on Friday. They are asking lawmakers to fully fund the Public Employees Insurance Agency and increase pay.
The West Virginia House has 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.
With teachers crowding its galleries Friday afternoon, the Senate voted 21-12 against bringing the legislation back out of committee and shortly after that adjourned until evening.
In order to secure long-term funding, PEIA Director Ted Cheatham has said that because of medical inflation, about $50 million to $70 million would be needed annually to keep the program functioning as it currently does.
On the issue of teacher pay, the House of Delegates has voted to give teachers 2 percent raises next year and 1 percent the next three years. The Senate earlier approved 1 percent raises annually for five years.
Legislators previously shot down attempts to up the raise to 3 percent in the first year, then two 1 percent pay raises.
In Mason County, teachers and service personnel supported a one-day work stoppage which took place last Friday, allowing staff to protest at the Capitol Complex in Charleston. School staff have also been gathering outside their buildings prior to school to draw attention to the issues of pay rates and health insurance.
Mason County Schools has just over 580 employees.
Associated Press reports and Beth Sergent contributed to this article.