West Virginia schools shutter as teachers begin strike

Schools in West Virginia shut down on Tuesday as teachers began a strike to protest new state legislation which would increase the number of vouchers for charter schools in the state.

Union leaders say the legislation was put through without consulting teachers and would damage public education in the state.

The West Virginia State Senate and House passed different versions of the bill, but both include the boosts for charter schools.

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“We are left with no other choice,” Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ West Virginia chapter, said of the strike. 

Almost all the state's 55 counties canceled school Tuesday. Schools in Putnam County were scheduled to remain open as of Monday night.

"It is important that our students continue to have the opportunity to learn in a safe and secure environment," Putnam county said in a statement. "Each day our schools provide much for the students we serve such as a safe and caring environment, meals, and the opportunity to participate in various extra-curricular activities."

Union leaders said that the length of the strike will be “day-to-day.”

County superintendents will plan alternative schedule plans with parents, West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Steven Paine said in a statement.

“I regret that circumstances have led to the announcement of work stoppages in many counties throughout the state," Paine said. "I am working diligently with all parties to advocate for a prompt resolution. Though this is an uncertain and emotional time, we cannot forget that the best interest of students must be our top priority."

Last year, West Virginia teachers successfully protested for nine days, securing a 5 percent pay raise across the state.

Since that successful strike, teachers in Oklahoma, Arizona, Los Angeles and Denver have all walked out.