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West Virginia Teachers continue protests for third day

Teachers+outside+on+5th+Avenue+of+Huntington%2C+West+Virginia+holding+signs+calling+for+increased+pay+raises+and+lower+deductibles+and+insurance+rates.+
Teachers outside on 5th Avenue of Huntington, West Virginia holding signs calling for increased pay raises and lower deductibles and insurance rates.

Teachers outside on 5th Avenue of Huntington, West Virginia holding signs calling for increased pay raises and lower deductibles and insurance rates.

Zach Steven | The Parthenon

Zach Steven | The Parthenon

Teachers outside on 5th Avenue of Huntington, West Virginia holding signs calling for increased pay raises and lower deductibles and insurance rates.

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The West Virginia public school teacher strike continued Monday, meaning that

more than 277,000 students are out of school for the third weekday in a row, including more than 13,000 from Cabell County alone.

There are 738 public schools in the state across 55 counties, and for the first time in state history, each and every one of them were out on Thursday, Friday and Monday as a result of the statewide teacher strike.

The strike began Thursday when West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed a legislative bill that scheduled 1 percent pay raises for public employees within the state in 2020 and 2021. Teachers across the state are calling for increased pay raises and lower deductibles and insurance rates with West Virginia’s Public Health Insurance Agency, or PEIA for short.

Cabell County teachers from schools all over Huntington were seen outside of the city hall Monday with signs and banners raising awareness for the plight of teachers in the county. Among these teachers was Laura Booth, an 11th-year preschool teacher at Central City Elementary School.

“We’re here not just in support of teachers but all state employees,” Booth said. “But for teachers also seniority, because that helps as far as paying. They’d much rather hire a younger teacher with less experience than an older teacher with years of experience, so they wouldn’t have to pay them as much. So, we’re trying to be heard.”

West Virginia teachers make the third-lowest salary on average amongst all 50 states. The 1 percent pay raise in the coming years is lower than in past years, and teachers are demanding that something be done before they will step back into schools.

“They’re trying to increase our premiums for PEIA, and they’re wanting to change the legislation rules to where teachers don’t even have to have an actual teaching degree anymore,” Kristina Edwards, an autism mentor teacher’s aide at Huntington High School, said. “They can just have a four-year degree in any field. Teachers who have been teaching for 10 or more years had seniority rights, and now they have to be worried about losing their jobs. It’s not just about our pay, it’s about many different things.”

Edwards works at Huntington High School alongside her brother and her mother, all of whom were at city hall with signs and banners in hand, protesting the legislation by the governor.

Zachary Stevens can be contacted at [email protected]

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