West Virginia teachers are doing what they did almost a year ago when their strike launched a national “Red4Ed” movement.
Unions have called for a state-wide walkout of all teachers on Tuesday to demonstrate what they call “complication over education legislation” which they view as lacking their input.
Three unions — West Virginia Education Association, the state’s American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and West Virginia School Service Personnel Association, which made the strike announcement at a press conference Monday, has said how long this strike will continue will be a day-to-day decision.
“We are left with no other choice,” said Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ West Virginia chapter.
In what started back in 2018, the walkout that launched the national movement prompted strikes from other states including Arizona, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Washington state, and very recently Denver and Los Angeles while teachers in Oakland, California have authorized a strike starting Thursday.
Nearly all the public schools’ classes were called off on Tuesday in all of West Virginia’s 55 counties.
According to report, the unions have said lawmakers never asked for their input into what has become a rushed process in the Senate, which narrowly passed an amended bill Monday night. It now goes back to the House of Delegates.
West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said, based on the Senate’s actions, “it appears that they are more interested in listening to the outside interests than they are the educators across West Virginia.:”
“We will work as closely as we can to get a resolution, but at this point, there doesn’t seem to be a resolution.”
One thing that has been asked for is to make provision for the creation of “the state’s first charter schools, which the unions believe would erode traditional public education”, but advocates say it would give parents more school choices. Charter school laws have been enacted in 43 states and Washington D.C.
According to report, the senate version would allow up to seven charter schools state-wide and provide up to 1,000 education savings for parents to pay for private school. The accounts would be for special needs students and those who have been bullied.
Speaking on the bill, Senate President Mitch Carmichael said “the bill found a middle ground and has ‘great provisions.’ It would give teachers additional 5 percent pay raises on top of 5 percent raises they received after last year’s strike.”
Carmichael said the bill’s goal is “getting our education system out of the doldrums.”
“Why would anyone want to stand in the status quo and stay in the past?” he said.
He blasted the teachers’ unions on Twitter Monday night: “Locking our students out of schools because the teachers’ union bosses have lost is an embarrassment for our state. After years of ruining our state’s public education system, the teacher union bosses have finally lost their grip on the Legislature and seemingly have lost their grip on reality. Comprehensive education reform that will improve student performance, provide parental choice and empower teachers is coming because parents, taxpayers, and job providers want our broken public education system fixed now. I am confident the House of Delegates will do the right thing and pass this compromise bill.”
Supporters of the provision believe parents will have more school choice, while the unions believe the bill will hurt traditional public schools.
It is still unclear how long the strike will last or how many more teachers will join the strike.