After nine straight days of striking and protests at the state capital, the teachers in West Virginia got exactly what they wanted. On Tuesday afternoon, the very time I sat down to write about this tremendous endeavor, the legislature came to a deal. A standalone bill was passed that gave all public employees a 5% raise, the austere changes to the PEIA were dropped, and Go365 was abandoned. But wait, there’s more. As Jay O’Neal shares in an interview in Jacobin Magazine, the strike brought a lot of attention to the state legislature and a lot of bad bills were stopped in their tracks. In particular, a charter school bill, allowing for the privatization of education and diverting funds from traditional public schools, and a number of anti-union bills were stalled in the legislature.
There’s no way to overstate it: this is a huge win for teachers and public education in West Virginia and the labor movement at large in the States. Teachers celebrated in the capitol building, but the fight isn’t over. The senate agreed to the bill to raise salaries with the caveat to slash $20 million from the state’s budget. As such, the Democrats in the legislature urged the crowd to show up in November to vote and the crowd chanted in agreement. And before they left, they chanted “West Virginia first; Oklahoma next!” urging their Okie brethren who are considering their own strike.
Will teachers in Oklahoma be next? Will Tennessee teachers strike over inadequate funding for schools? Will Kentucky’s teachers take to the streets to stop a terrible pension bill from passing?
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