Update: The House of Delegates of West Virginia voted Tuesday afternoon to postpone indefinitely action on the controversial education bill.
Teachers in West Virginia are furious with state lawmakers – again.
About 19,000 teachers left the station on Tuesday, closing nearly all state schools for the second time in the year. But this time, teachers do not fight for salary increases. They protest against Republican efforts to privatize public education.
Union leaders called for a strike Monday night after Republican senators voted for a bill that would open the door to the establishment of the first West Virginia charter schools. This means that part of the money reserved for public schools would be used to fund private charter schools, home classes and online courses. The Education Bill would also facilitate the dismissal of teachers without regard to seniority during layoffs.
Senators passed the bill with a narrow majority, from 18 to 16 years, and sent it to the House of Delegates. The chamber is expected to vote on the bill Tuesday afternoon.
"The state Senate is trying for the second time this year to pass a so-called education bill that deters public education, retaliates against teachers who defended their students last year and seems be motivated by outside interests like Americans and Americans. Prosperity which, as [Education Secretary] Betsy DeVos wants to eliminate public schools, "said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement on Monday.
The reaction surprised some lawmakers, knowing that the Education Bill also provides for funds for salary increases and more nurses and school staff. But teachers say they will not allow the state to start privatizing public education in order to benefit from a salary increase. They want legislators to drop the bill and start over.
So, instead of going to class, thousands of teachers invaded the Capitol building in West Virginia Tuesday morning to express their disgust.
"Kill this ticket," they chanted. "Yes public schools, charter schools no."
This latest coordinated action comes nearly a year after the launch in February 2018 of a successful nine-day strike by teachers in West Virginia, which aimed to increase teachers' salaries. This initiative has spread throughout the country and fueled similar strikes in six states. And the trend continues in 2019: Los Angeles teachers went on strike in January, Denver teachers left the class last week and Oakland, California, teachers plan to strike on Thursday.
Now, educators in West Virginia are once again working their muscles, showing politicians that they are ready to fight for more than just a raise.
Revolt of national teachers began in West Virginia
Public school teachers in West Virginia have begun a national movement when they launched a major strike last February.
In total, 35,000 educators and school staff did not show up for work during the shutdown, for a total of 318,600 lost workdays.
State teachers were unhappy about not having benefited from a widespread salary increase since 2014 and were among the lowest paid teachers in the country. The average salary of teachers in the state was $ 44,701 in 2016, according to the National Education Association, making West Virginia 48th of the country.
Legislators, Democrats and Republicans, have been cutting taxes on corporations and businesses for more than a decade. As a result, public schools lose millions of dollars a year in public funds, the main source of funding for local schools, followed by local property taxes. The state of West Virginia now moves 11.4 percent less per pupil than before the economy in 2008.
Teachers in West Virginia went on strike to close the state's 680 public schools for nine days. The walkout ended in March after the governor and heads of state agreed to give teachers what they wanted: a 5% increase and a hold on the increase in health insurance premiums.
Underpaid teachers across the country were watching.
More than 100,000 public school teachers from six states have left the classroom since, rebelling against years of stagnant wages, infrastructure in ruins, and deep budget cuts in education. Strikes in Arizona, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, California and Colorado had broad public support, forcing state legislators to raise their salaries and fueling a national movement to stimulate investment in public education.
Now teachers in West Virginia have begun another battle. We still do not know if their strategy will work a second time.