West Virginia teachers to return to work
after two-day strike
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[February 21, 2019]
By Alex Dobuzinskis
(Reuters) - Union leaders for West Virginia
teachers ended a two-day strike on Wednesday that they had called to
oppose charter schools, clearing the way for classes to resume for about
The state's educators, among the lowest-paid in the nation, sparked a
wave of U.S. teachers' strikes last year when they walked off the job to
demand higher pay. That nine-day strike ended after West Virginia agreed
to a 5 percent raise.
In their latest job action, teachers went on strike on Tuesday to
protest a bill in the West Virginia legislature that would have allowed
the state's first seven charter schools to open.
Although the bill was defeated on Tuesday in the House of Delegates, the
strike continued on Wednesday, keeping most of the state's 700 schools
closed as teachers rallied to stop lawmakers from reviving the bill.
"Our voices were heard," Fred Albert, president of the West Virginia
chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said at a news
conference on Wednesday.
Teachers will return to work on Thursday, Albert said, but union leaders
would monitor deliberations in the state legislature this year to oppose
the charter school proposal.
Charter schools are publicly funded but run by private groups. Advocates
say the schools offer parents a wider array of educational opportunities
for their children. Critics say they benefit profit-driven private
organizations and that some of them oppose organized labor.
While the strike in West Virginia wound down, another one is looming in
Oakland, California. Teachers there are expected to strike on Thursday
over charter school accountability. The teachers are also seeking raises
and more nurses and guidance counselors.
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Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers,
speaks before a crowd of striking educators at Capital High School
in Charleston, West Virginia, U.S., February, 19 2019. REUTERS/Lexi
Union officials have complained that wealthy organizations from
outside West Virginia are pushing for charter schools.
Governor Jim Justice, a Republican, had vowed to veto the charter
schools legislation, which had passed the state Senate but was
defeated in the House of Delegates.
A separate bill, backed by the governor, which authorizes the
promised pay raise for teachers and does not address charter
schools, was advancing in the legislature, the West Virginia
Democratic Party said on Twitter on Wednesday.
West Virginia is one of only six U.S. states that does not allow for
charter schools, according to non-profit research group the
Education Commission of the States.
The American Federation of Teachers called the charter schools bill
an act of retaliation for the strike last March that secured higher
pay for teachers. That strike was followed by similar actions in
Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Chicago and Los Angeles.
(Reporting by Alex Dobuzinskis; Additional reporting by Jonathan
Allen in New York; Editing by Bill Tarrant and Leslie Adler)
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