PUTNAM COUNTY, WV (WOWK)- West Virginia teachers are keeping up the fight for a pay raise and state insurance fix. Tensions boiled over last week, ending in walk-outs. But lawmakers have not agreed on a bill yet, so teachers say they’re not backing down.
“There is a lot of frustration all over the state with how teachers are paid and just the issues with PEIA and insurance,” Pre-school teacher Amber Brown told 13 News.
No raise in five years, plus rising insurance costs have left teachers with a virtual pay-cut.
“The raises in our premiums and so much that we take out of our own pockets to fund and supply our classrooms- it makes it harder and harder,” Brown added.
So teachers say the proposed 1% pay raise, which adds up to about $400, just isn’t enough.
“The benefit increases and coverage reductions are way more expensive than the amount of the raise. So it’s kind of a slap in the face to say that they’re giving us a raise- because that’s not the case,” 6th grade math teacher Violet Cohenour explained.
State workers say their insurance plan is also covering less, leaving West Virginia families vulnerable.
“People don’t realize how much their benefits have been cut until it’s your family that’s facing a horrible illness and financial ruin because of that,” Cohenour said.
So Putnam teachers not only picketed across the county, but also took their concerns to the Board of Education- letting county leaders know they expect their support in the statehouse.
With 700 teacher vacancies and dozens more set to retire this year- teachers say the time to act is now.
Governor Jim Justice said in a press conference Monday, lawmakers in both parties refused to pass his 2% teacher pay raise last year. But he cautioned against passing too large a raise this year- saying it could be a disaster for state finances.