West Virginia lawmakers approve pay raise to end teachers’ strike
The West Virginia state legislature on Tuesday approved a 5 percent pay raise for teachers, ending a nine-day strike that has kept public schools closed.
The state House and Senate both voted unanimously to approve the pay increase for teachers and state troopers, The Associated Press reported. Teachers could return to schools, which have been closed since Feb. 22, as early as Wednesday.
Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair said the state will pay for the raises with $20 million in cuts to general services and Medicaid.
Gov. Jim Justice (R) announced earlier in the day that lawmakers reached a deal to end the strike. Justice and the teachers’ union came to an agreement last week on a 5 percent raise to end the strike, but the state Senate voted to reduce the pay increase, prolonging the strike into this week.
West Virginia teachers have been on strike for nine consecutive school days in response to low wages amid skyrocketing health insurance costs. All public schools in the state’s 55 counties remained closed during that time, which affected nearly 277,000 students and 35,000 employees, The Associated Press reported.
Nearly one-quarter of all children are living in poverty in West Virginia, meaning they often rely on school for their meals. This prompted teachers to pack hundreds of food bags for students in need even as they were on strike.