MASON COUNTY — Though the weather was rainy and cool this Wednesday, it did not deter the teachers of Mason County and teachers of counties across the state from standing strong on their picket lines, the final day of a two-day work stoppage.
On Wednesday evening, Union leaders from the three unions representing teachers and school service personnel in the stated called an end to the strike, saying classrooms would reopen on Thursday.
Mason County Schools will be open for staff and students on Thursday, Feb. 21.
The statewide work stoppage began on Tuesday, Feb. 19 due to the educators’ opposition towards the Education Senate Bill 451 (SB 451). Though the bill was indefinitely tabled by the West Virginia House of Delegates on Tuesday afternoon, the educators had mistrust in the legislation and hit the picket line for another day on Wednesday, Feb. 20.
Despite the end of the work stoppage, union leaders say they reserve the right to call teachers back out on strike before the end of the legislative session in early March to take action as they see fit on other education bills.
“At this point I think we’re putting our trust into our people in Charleston and our leaders to be knowledgeable and make decisions,” said Allison Pierce, Wahama High School instructor.
Melanie Rose, New Haven Elementary physical education instructor, commented, “I think one of the biggest reasons we stayed out today too is because nobody trusts the legislature.”
“I agree, I think that we have lost some trust in the Senate and because of that we aren’t willing to place our trust into them to make decisions that are best for our students,” said Pierce.
Rose added, “The charter schools are still up and (Senate President) Mitch (Carmichael) is trying to get it connected back in with the pay raise bill.”
“I would like to see the promises that were made last year that they did not fulfill which is the PEIA being fully funded,” said Teresa Atkinson, Wahama High School special education instructor. “And yes we would all like a pay raise, but that is not the reason we’re here, we’re here for the betterment of education of our students in West Virginia and we do not think charter schools are the way to go, there’s too much history with other states where it has not worked.”
“I think it’s best we invest in our students in the public education system instead of investing in business because it’s unreliable,” added Pierce.
“Or business that wants to make a profit, with charter schools they want to be able to make a profit,” said Atkinson.
On Wednesday, the House of Delegates made no mention of Tuesday’s passage of a motion that effectively killed the bill.
According to legislative rules, a lawmaker who voted to table the bill had until Wednesday to ask to have the vote reconsidered. The House adjourned until Thursday without such a move being made.
Portions of the complex bill also could still be offered through amendments to other legislation in the final two weeks of the session.
Earlier Wednesday a House committee endorsed a pay increase for teachers, school service workers and state police. The teacher pay raise was part of the original legislation that the House tabled. The House plans a public hearing on the raises Friday. It would give annual salary increases of $2,120 to teachers, $2,370 to state police and $115 per month for school service workers.
Last year state teachers received an average 5 percent raise to end the nine-day strike.
John Raby of the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Erin Perkins is a staff writer for Ohio Valley Publishing. Reach her at (304) 675-1333, extension 1992.