WV teachers say Republicans leave them ‘no choice’ but to remain on strike

Photo: Tamar Auber

The Republican-controlled West Virginia Senate attempted to pass a smaller pay raise for teachers. Instead, they caused chaos and eliminated any hope of ending the teachers’ strike by Monday. 

The West Virginia teachers’ strike is still not over.

On Saturday, the Republican-led state Senate, after two days of refusing to vote on a measure raising teacher’s wages, argued and negotiated for hours over an amended version of the bill. They ended the day in chaos and without a passed bill in hand.

As a result, with no further debate planned for Sunday, teachers will remain on strike until at least Monday, marking the eighth day of no school in all of West Virginia’s 55 counties.

At one point late Saturday, it looked like the state Senate had approved a 4 percent raise — less than the 5 percent promised by the governor — and sent it to the House for a final vote, prompting the Associated Press to report that teachers had vowed to remain on the picket line despite the Senate approving the slightly smaller raise.

Yet, as the West Virginia Education Association noted on their Facebook page, the Senate had actually made a colossal mistake, and sent the wrong bill back to the House. The group wrote:

Before you hear it elsewhere – The Senate screwed up and sent the original 5% pay raise bill back to the House. The Senate has realized their mistake and is working to find a parliamentary way to recall the bill and fix the mistake. They are considering their options on how to do that now. This might be one of the craziest legislative screw-ups in WV legislative history. You can’t make this stuff up.

Then things got even crazier in Charleston. According to West Virginia House Democrats, Senate President Mitch Carmichael broke the rules on Saturday night to remedy the Senate’s mistake.

“Just so everyone is clear, Senate President Mitch Carmichael blatantly broke the rules of the Senate to fix his own screw-up,” the West Virginia House Democrats wrote in a social media play-by-play of the chaos. “This is an absolute abuse of power. The bill will now go to the House for a vote.”

The House refused to hear the bill, sending it back to the Senate. The Senate refused to recede from its version of the bill.

As a result of this legislative mess, the teachers’ raise promised by Gov. Jim Justice last Tuesday now sits in the hands of a conference committee consisting of 4 Republicans and 2 Democrats from the House and the Senate.

A fed up Gov. Justice insisted, “It’s time to quit playing politics and get our kids back in school.”

“This wrangling needs to stop right now,” Justice said in a statement made after it was evident there would be no solution over the weekend. “For crying out loud, we are putting our children at risk.”

West Virginia teachers say that the actions of Republican legislators have forced their hand once again.

“Senator Carmichael and the Senate leadership team leave us no choice – all public schools in West Virginia will be closed again on Monday and remain closed until the Senate honors the agreement that was made,” said a joint statement from the West Virginia Education Association, West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, and West Virginia School Service Personnel Association.

The legislature is adjourned until Monday.