By: Tessa Osteen
Over the course of almost two weeks, West Virginia’s public school teachers striked for better wages and benefits. All teachers in the 55 counties hosted rallies daily at the capitol building, demanding for things they rightfully deserve. Being ranked 48th in the nation for teacher salary, this was a long awaited dispute for these educators to voice their opinions on.
On average, teachers in West Virginia only make up to $45k a year, which is right on the national poverty line. The protest came after W.V. Governor, Jim Justice, signed legislation only giving teachers a 2% pay raise in late February. Many other factors have led to the protest, such as a change in health carepolicy , since many teachers were unable to afford it with their low salaries. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown admitted to Buzzfeed News, “When this society fails to pay its teachers a living wage, it’s pretty shameful…”
With over 22k teachers protesting, this has left over 200k children unable to attend school and has left others unable to get nutritional meals at home. Jennifer Woods, a spokesperson for the American Federation of Teachers stated, “Teachers across the state worked with local community groups, churches and food pantries to provide bags of food they sent home with students before the strike.” After nine days of no school, educators are finally teaching again after receiving a 5% raise from governors and lawmakers on March 6. W.V. Governor Justice declared on Twitter, “We have reached a deal. I stood rock solid on the 5% teacher pay and delivered.”
Teachers in other states, like Oklahoma and Arizona, with the same low teaching salary have been inspired by the protest in West Virginia, and are starting to organize their own with similar goals and premises. Unfortunately, states all over this country have a lack of funding for education and teacher shortages that must be fixed immediately. These protests are a step leading to better education and pay for both students and teachers.