55 Ignited: WV Teachers Strike Again

For the second time within a year, West Virginia teachers are on strike once again. A bill proposed by West Virginia lawmakers would privatize public education and start the funding of charter schools. Around 19,000 teachers began striking on Monday, February 19 and 55 of the state’s school districts canceled classes in preparation of the protest. Only one county, Putnam County, in the state of West Virginia has not canceled school, however, there are still multiple teachers protesting outside the county’s doors. Despite a lack of students and staff, the board still has yet to cancel class.

However, inside the Capitol, the West Virginia House of Delegates and Senate have gone back and forth on what the bill will entail. But teachers were disappointed in the contents of the bill, so the unions decided to strike.

What's in the bill?

Senate Bill 451 includes a 5 percent pay raise for teachers, the establishment of public charter schools, the creation of an Education Savings Account and the ability for local boards of education to change their levy rate. The bill would make it easier to fire teachers who are on tenure and have seniority. The bill also reserves the money for public schools to fund privately run charter schools, homeschooling and online classes. The bill also stipends public money into a newly found system called educational savings accounts, that is supposed to be reserved for private and online schooling. The new bill was deemed unacceptable by the state's teachers and to the state's teachers’ unions even though they would receive the 5 percent pay raise. The teachers felt that the cons of the bill outweighed the pros.

What is a charter school?

Charter schools are public schools of choice, meaning that families choose them for their children regardless of district lines. They can run without the restrictions and regulations that are imposed upon public school and district laws. Charter schools remove the right to equal education for all students and strip away regulations that teachers and school districts have to follow. Charter school have also been accused of discriminating against special needs students and those with lower household incomes. Why start funding for dozens of charter schools around the state, when you can access proper funding to make the public schools better? This is why the teachers are protesting.

What happens now? The streets were lined with teachers and public school employees protesting outside of the Capitol and around the state. The House voted 53-45 to halt action on the bill indefinitely. That means the bill will not even be brought to the Senate and House members. Celebrations started in the Capitol for delayed action on the bill. However, there is still a chance that the bill is not quite dead, which is why you might see the teachers protesting along the streets of Morgantown despite the weather. Because the strike has not yet been canceled, when students will return to school is still unknown.