The Latest: Schools reopening in West Virginia after walkout

The Latest: Schools reopening in West Virginia after walkout
The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The Latest on a statewide teachers strike in West Virginia (all times local):

1:55 p.m.

Some West Virginia counties are reopening schools after the Legislature passed a 5 percent pay raise for teachers and others in a deal to end a statewide walkout that closed schools for nine days.

Union leaders haven’t said whether they’re calling for an end to the strike, pending a ceremony at the governor’s office later Tuesday.

But Kanawha County’s school system announced in phone calls to parents that schools would reopen Wednesday. Several other county school systems made similar announcements on Twitter.

It wasn’t immediately clear whether all 55 county school systems would reopen. A state Department of Education spokesman didn’t return an email message.

Both the House of Delegates and the state Senate unanimous passed the pay raise for teachers, school service personnel and state troopers. Other state workers will have to wait for a budget bill to pass before getting their 5 percent raises promised under the deal.

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1 p.m.

West Virginia’s teachers are applauding the unanimous Senate approval of a 5 percent raise in pay for teachers and troopers, in a deal to end a nine-day walkout that closed schools statewide.

Teachers cheered in the Senate gallery after the 34-0 approval. The raise also covers school service personnel.

The House already approved the deal in a vote of 99-0 on Tuesday.

Governor Jim Justice said “I believe in you and I love our kids” to the teachers after the deal was made, and plans a news conference later Tuesday.

West Virginia’s teachers are among the lowest paid in the nation and haven’t had a salary increase in four years. Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair said they’ll need to cut state spending by $20 million to pay for the raises by taking funds from general government services and Medicaid.

Other state workers will have to wait for a budget bill to pass before getting their 5 percent raises promised under the deal.

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11:50 a.m.

West Virginia’s House of Delegates has passed a 5 percent pay raise for striking teachers after a legislative conference committee agreed to the figure.

With teachers cheering from the gallery, the measure passed the House 99-0 Tuesday, providing 5 percent raises for teachers, school service personnel and state troopers. It now awaits action in the state Senate.

The governor, union leaders and the House of Delegates had agreed to the raise last week for teachers, who are among the lowest paid in the nation and haven’t had a salary increase in four years. But the Senate refused to go along, approving a 4 percent increase Saturday. The six-member conference committee then agreed to the 5 percent figure Tuesday, and for more than just teachers.

Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair says to pay for the raises, lawmakers will seek to cut state spending by $20 million, taking funds from general government services and Medicaid. Other state workers who also would get 5 percent raises under the deal will have to wait for a budget bill to pass.

Teachers have been on strike since Feb. 22.

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10:20 a.m.

West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says a tentative agreement has been reached to end a nine-day statewide teachers’ strike by giving them the 5 percent raises he negotiated to end their walkout.

He said Tuesday that additional budget cuts by his staff will enable all state workers to also get 5 percent raises.

Senate Republicans confirmed the deal, saying it involves some reduced government.

On Twitter, Justice says: “I stood rock solid on the 5% Teacher pay raise and delivered. Not only this, but my staff and I made additional cuts which will give all State employees 5% as well. All the focus should have always been on fairness and getting the kids back in school.”

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6 a.m.

West Virginia legislators plan to meet Tuesday in search of a compromise that could end the strike by West Virginia teachers, now entering its ninth day.

A show of support by thousands of teachers and supporters on Monday didn’t immediately sway the lawmakers, who failed to agree on a 5 percent pay raise, forcing another day of cancelled classes for the school system’s 277,000 students and 35,000 employees.

The governor, union leaders and the House of Delegates agreed to the 5 percent pay raise for the teachers, who are among the lowest paid in the nation and haven’t had a salary increase in four years. The Senate offered only 4 percent.

A conference committee of six House and Senate members met for the second time Monday evening, where Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns said his chamber’s leadership was offering “a compromise position.” He noted it was only preliminary. Details were not disclosed publicly. The committee planned to meet again Tuesday morning.

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