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WV Teachers Rally In Charleston for More Than 1 Percent

By Kelson Howerton
On February 1, 2018

Teachers all across the state rallied together in Charleston for better wages and health insurance.
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On Jan. 15, public school educators from across the state rallied together at the capitol building in Charleston, West Virginia, for a better solution than the 1 percent pay raise proposed by Gov. Jim Justice. 

The week before, Gov. Justice coupled a push for no new tax increases with a proposal to raise public school teachers’ pay by 1 percent, with teachers receiving another 1 percent raise each year for the next four years. Last year, Gov. Justice, who had not yet switched to the Republican party, proposed a 2 percent pay increase for teachers, which never saw the light of day amid a shrinking state government budget.
Nearly 200 public educators joined together in the capitol on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to say this 1 percent increase was not even close to being enough to make up for the state’s already poor wages and the rising costs of health insurance. These teachers are calling for the state to provide competitive pay and take steps to improve the state of their PEIA (Public Employees Insurance Agency).

One such teacher was Jordan Manning, a Concord alum and third grade teacher in Wyoming County, who attended the rally alongside at least 15 other teachers in her county to voice that the state needs to do better for its teachers. “Honestly, we're just hoping that they finally realize that teachers deserve better,” Manning said. 

According to the National Education Association, West Virginia is currently ranked 48th in the nation in average teacher pay. While teachers’ paychecks are unsatisfactory at best, West Virginia’s educators have also suffered from rising PEIA rates, which Manning says have increased so much that their benefits have decreased. 

According to Manning, teachers in her area must take on a variety of other jobs, from private tutoring to small businesses to selling products online, just to support themselves and their families. Others teach in schools out of state that have better pay and health insurance benefits. 

“I could easily jump across the border and teach in Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and get paid beyond more than what I am now,” said Manning, “but I choose to stay here because I love this state, and I think we need to stay competitive so [that] we can draw in those teachers.”

Manning and her fellow teachers hope that the state will be able to find a way to fund public educators’ portion of the PEIA that does not further cut the paychecks they need to survive. 

Manning says teachers have received no official word of a decision from the state, although she is hopeful that progress is being made, and that the support of educators in her county and across the state will lead to future movements. 
“It felt like it was the start of something that can really go beyond just that one day,” Manning said. She hopes that when the time for another rally comes, they will be joined by even more public-school teachers.

While no official plans have been made, talk of a strike emerged throughout the rally, evoking memories of the 11-day strike of 1990 in which thousands of teachers across 47 of West Virginia’s 55 counties walked away from their jobs in protest of the lowest wages the state had ever seen. Only state legislators’ response to the issue in the coming days will determine what further action teachers will take moving forward. 

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