From the balconies of the Senate galleries, to the halls of the capitol, dozens of teachers came to lobby the Legislature. They are supporting another 5-percent pay raise, and a once-and-for-all fix to increased costs to their health insurance program.
“We want a fix. PEIA needs to be fixed. Not just frozen, but fixed,” said Lucina Burns, a Kanawha County Teacher.
Last year teachers had a statewide nine-day strike, leading to a 5-percent pay hike for all state workers. An education blll in the Senate would give another 5-percent pay raise, but a lot of controversial education reforms are also in the bill, including possible charter schools and letting counties decide on teacher seniority.
“There’s a lot of things in this bill and it includes some school choice initiatives that the Senate considers important. But it’s mostly been crafted with the input that we get from the superintendent, the counties and the teachers who have contacted us and asked what they would like to see,” said State Sen. Patricia Rucker, Chair, (R) Jefferson – Education Committee.
Many Democrats and union leaders are opposed to the Senate’s all-encompassing education bill.
“If you are forcing people to vote on a pay raise based on all the other bad stuff in it, that’s not fair. If these are truly inovative ideas for education, let them stand on their own merit,” said Dale Lee, President of the WV Education Association.
“My fear is that – especially on the Senate side – is there going to try to tie some bad things like getting rid of seniority, some things like that, to that pay raise and that’s what concerns me,” said Del. Robert Thompson, (D) Wayne.
Teachers say if such a bill were to pass, they could walk of the job and come back to the Capitol in protest.
There is talk that the House may craft a much different education bill. As always, whatever the legilsature passes, must be the same language in both the House and Seate bills.