Two-day teacher strike over in West Virginia, school to resume

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (AP) — Unions for West Virginia teachers ended their two-day strike on Wednesday night after lawmakers did not act on a doomed, broad-based education bill.

Leaders of three unions representing teachers and school service personnel said at a news conference that classrooms would reopen statewide yesterday.

The House of Delegates made no mention of Tuesday’s passage of a motion that effectively killed the bill.

According to legislative rules, a lawmaker who voted to table the bill had until Wednesday to ask to have the vote reconsidered. The House adjourned until yesterday without such a move being made.

The complex bill “is now dead. It’s gone,” said Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ West Virginia chapter.

“So our voices were heard”.

Schools in 54 of the state’s 55 counties were closed for a second day on Wednesday. The lone holdout again was Putnam County.

Unions for teachers and school service workers went on strike on Tuesday over the legislation that they said lacked their input and was retaliation for a nine-day walkout last year. That strike launched the national ‘Red4Ed’ movement, which included strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington state, and more recently, Los Angeles and Denver.

The unions and teachers opposed provisions in the legislation that, among other things, would have created the state’s first charter schools and allow education savings accounts for parents to pay for private school. Proponents said the moves would have given parents more school choices.

“This was once again a united effort,” said President of the West Virginia Education Association Dale Lee. “The winners in this, once again, are the children of West Virginia (who) are assured of a great public education for all of them, not just a select few.”

The union leaders said they reserve the right to call teachers back out on strike before the end of the legislative session in early March to take action as they see fit. Portions of the complex bill could still be offered through amendments to other legislation in the final two weeks of the session.

The unions have trust issues with lawmakers, especially becoming wary of leaders in the Senate after actions during the 2018 strike and again this month when the chamber rushed to act on the bill.

“I feel cautiously optimistic,” said Visual Arts teacher at Walton Elementary-Middle School in Roane County Sarah Duncan. “I hope that (lawmakers) continue to do the right thing. I hope that they don’t try and bring back those parts of the bill that got the bill killed in the first place, like education savings accounts and charter schools.”