CHARLESTON (AP) — School teachers and public employees in West Virginia are planning a statewide walkout as they continue to protest low pay, projected hikes in health insurance costs and small proposed pay hikes.
According to the Associated Press, media outlets report that 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, Feb. 17.
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.