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.
Looks like a lot of West Virginia teachers don’t feel this agreement gets to the heart of the issue: fully funding state insurance plans. 5% is an incredible representation of what collective worker power can achieve. But seems like today was not the end of the #WVteachers fight.— ellinha (@ella_mahony) February 28, 2018
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.
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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.
We aren’t finished. This was no win by a long shot. Not a win until PEIA is funded.— Laetitia (@ellemc63) February 28, 2018
West Virginia teachers read the news that they'll be going back to work without guaranteed affordable healthcare (PEIA). "Back to the table!" "Fix it now" and "See you tomorrow!" erupted from the crowd of after union reps announced the deal's terms #55strong pic.twitter.com/TH3mOlpNZq— Scott Heins (@scottheins) February 28, 2018