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Educators Await Delivery on Promises; Walkout May or May Not be Over

By Julie Perine on February 28, 2018 via Connect-Bridgeport.com

West Virginia educators and other state employees saw progress on the ongoing walkout situation when Governor Jim Justice announced a proposed five percent raise for teachers and other school personnel. He also announced plans to implement a task force to investigate and fully fund PEIA healthcare insurance. The salary issue comes in front of the state legislature today. The task force will be a work in progress.
 
“This isn’t over yet,” said J.D. Lister, BHS teacher representative. “We did get some wins out of this, but not where we need to be.”
 
Lister and several other local educators are in Charleston today, making their voices heard before legislators on what might be the most vital day of all as the issues posed by Gov. Justice still have to come before the House and the Senate.  
 
Chants heard at the capitol today are: “We aren’t going back. We aren’t going back.”
 
What educators want the public to know is they are still fighting and since proposed answers are still in the promise stage, the walkout may or may not be over.
 
“We’re still out here,” said Anita Hornor of Bridgeport High School, where educators remain rallying for permanent answers regarding their rights. “We have been so overwhelmed by the support. Never in my 36 years of teaching have I ever felt love like we have felt. We don’t want to lose that love, but we hope people understand that you can be promised anything. As teachers, we are saying we want to be back in the classroom, but we can’t until we see action and the ink dries on the documents.”
 
Since Thursday, teachers and other school personnel have been rallying; some outside their schools and others at the state capitol in Charleston. Their issue is three-fold. The state ranks 48th in the country for teacher pay and that poses a major threat to the future of education and keeping qualified educators in the Mountain State. The sky-rocketing premiums of PEIA is another major concern. Though a 16-month freeze was implicated, educators are adamant about a permanent fix. Another current threat to the education system was a proposed change in the seniority system, but that issue has been taken care of.
 
Word should be received by 4 p.m. whether the House and Senate are in agreement with the other issues.
 
“We’re in the midst of it and continue to want (the public’s) support we will do anything we can to get back to school. We want to do that but we can’t quit the fight midstream.”
 
Though the raise, if it does in fact pass, is much appreciated and a partial victory in the battle, it is PEIA that has always been the main concern. Hornor said she and fellow educators are also not happy with the proposed three percent pay raise for other state employees. The teachers have been standing united for all state employees, she said. Everyone should be getting the same pay increase across the board.
 
BHS teachers are meeting this morning with Greg Phillips of the West Virginia Education Association. 
 
UPDATE: At 11:30 a.m., Lister confirmed from Charleston that the proposed five percent raise will not be approved today. There has been no movement from the House or Senate and the matter has been removed from the Senate docket for today, Feb. 28. 
 
"The claim they need to see budget numbers from Gov. Justice before they can do anything because they don't know where the money is coming from," Lister said. 
 



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