By: Tina Alvey, Beckley Register-Herald
LEWISBURG — Clad in every shade of red shirt imaginable, some 30 Greenbrier County teachers assembled on the sidewalk in front of the Lewis Theatre Wednesday afternoon.
But they didn’t gather to see a film; these teachers were part of Greenbrier County’s “Red for Ed” day, and their ultimate goal was a little further up Court Street. A couple of minutes after 4 p.m., they strode a half-block up the street to the courthouse in order to cast their ballots on the first day of early voting for November’s general election.
“Red for Ed” is a nonpartisan initiative, organizers emphasized. No one was pressured to vote for a particular candidate or party, they said.
“I’ve preached vote your best interest,” said Greenbrier County Education Association President Sandra Beale, who wore a red t-shirt that proclaimed “Teacher” in script across the familiar outline of West Virginia.
Others wore red sweaters or buttons that urged “Remember in November,” the oft-repeated slogan that emerged from the statewide teachers’ strike earlier this year.
“We want to let our legislators know we’re still united,” Beale said. “The strike brought a lot of cohesiveness to our profession.”
Still an issue for the educators, who greeted each new arrival to the gathering Wednesday with applause, is the state of PEIA (Public Employees Insurance Agency), which still lacks the continuing funding stream that legislators promised in order to negotiate an end to the strike.
“We need to get PEIA fully funded,” retired Eastern Greenbrier Middle School English teacher Retus Ramsey said. “The governor needs to make sure it does not fall by the wayside.”
The White Sulphur Springs resident’s loyalties are undivided.
“I stand with the teachers united,” she stated.
Mixed in with the teachers were several local candidates for statewide office.
“I’m here to support our educators,” said state Sen. Stephen Baldwin, D-Greenbrier.
Reflecting on the teachers’ strike, which resulted in a pay raise for which both Democrat and Republican parties now are claiming credit, Baldwin said, “It’s not about who gets the credit; it’s about the results. The educators did the work, and they deserve to reap the rewards.”
He added, “It is frustrating to see politicians trying to take the credit for something they opposed.”