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Teachers in West Virginia will go back to school on Thursday following a four-day strike, after the governor announced educators would get a five percent raise this year. Concerns over the state's public employee healthcare program remain unresolved. (Photo: @WSAZJatara/Twitter)

West Virginia Teachers Win Pay Raise After Four-Day Walkout, But Say Fight Far From Over

Educators will get a five percent pay raise, but the governor announced no long-term solution to fund the state's public employees' healthcare program

Julia Conley

Many of the thousands of West Virginia teachers who participated in a historic strike that kept every public school in the state closed for four days over the past week say that their fight for fair compensation is not over yet—despite a deal that was reached Tuesday evening that Governor Jim Justice says will give educators a five percent raise this year.

The walkout began last Thursday, after Justice announced that the state's teachers would receive a four percent raise over the next three years—which teachers and the non-partisan West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy said would not be enough to keep up with the rising cost of living, including healthcare expenses.

"We aren't finished. This was no win by a long shot. Not a win until PEIA is funded."—Laetitia, West Virginia teacher

While teachers applauded the five percent pay raise, the governor's offer did not address concerns about healthcare costs in the state's public employee health insurance program.

The teachers have demanded a permanent solution to rising premiums in the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA). The agency announced it would freeze prices for the coming year last week, but the West Virginia Teachers Association wants the state to assemble a task force to find a long-term fix. The state is currently using money from its "rainy day fund" to keep PEIA running as it waits for funding.

The PEIA's shortfall came as reports surfaced showing that coal companies linked to Justice owe the state $2.9 million in property taxes.

Teachers on the ground posted on social media that while they will return to school on Thursday after Wednesday's "cooling off day," they won't consider the fight over until the PEIA is fully funded.

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