National education and labor news

West Virginia teachers face new battle

Nearly a year after their lengthy walkout resulted in better pay, West Virginia public school teachers are back on edge after the introduction of a bill in the West Virginia State Senate in late January to weaken unions and redirect tax revenue from public schools to private and charter school options.

“I can’t believe what I just heard,” said Christi Phillips, who was among the thousands of West Virginia teachers who walked off the job in February 2018. “It was like a slap in the face. I really don’t want to fight them again, but if this goes through, I’m afraid it’s going to get ugly.”

The comprehensive 140-page education bill would increase elementary school class sizes from 25 to 28, establish savings accounts for families to pay for private school, legalize charter schools in the state and require teachers to sign off annually on union dues. It would also allow teachers to apply accrued sick days toward the cost of their health insurance upon retirement.

West Virginia teachers won a 5 percent pay raise after a nine-day strike in February 2018. Another 5 percent increase is included in the current draft bill. The bill would also allow county school boards to pay more to teachers in shortage areas.

The Republican Party controls all three branches of government in West Virginia.

Associated Press, Jan. 24
West Virginia MetroNews, Jan. 25

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