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Some teachers, school service workers organizing ‘walk ins’ for session start

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By Shauna Johnson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — On the day Governor Jim Justice gives his 3rd State of the State Address at the State Capitol, some of West Virginia’s teachers and school personnel will be drawing attention to the “State of the Mountain State’s Schools” with a walk-in event.

Set for Wednesday, organizers said it was designed as a reminder that educators are still unified less than a year after the nine-day walkout that ended with approval of a 5 percent pay raise and pledged health insurance funding fixes for the Public Employees Insurance Agency.

“Those teachers and service professionals want the Legislature to know that they’re watching very closely,” said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, of the participants.

“They feel that our schools continue to need things.”

Those with the American Federation of Teachers West Virginia are also participating.

Wednesday is the first day of the 60-day 2019 Regular Legislative Session at the State Capitol.

At a number of schools across West Virginia that day, teachers, school service personnel and their supporters will rally 30 minutes before the start of classes and then enter schools together to begin the teaching day.

“It’s a way to get the information out there to really let the Legislature know that we’re going to watch the actions taken this year,” Lee said during an appearance on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”

Later in the session, “There may be some ‘Wearing Red For Ed.’ There will be lobby days when educators will be coming to Charleston, so there’s a variety of ways to let the Legislature know.”

In his view, there remain continued funding needs for PEIA and more competitive salaries along with protections for seniority and from implementation of charter schools and vouchers.

Last October, Governor Justice said he would propose a 5 percent pay raise for teachers and state workers this yearand dedicate $100 million in state surplus funding to PEIA. Those proposals may be detailed in his State of the State Address.

Educators in West Virginia walked off the job en masse beginning on February 22, 2018 during last year’s Regular Legislative Session.

All 55 public county school systems were closed for the duration of the strike that ran through March 7, 2018.

West Virginia’s teachers and school service personnel inspired similar actions in other states including Arizona and Oklahoma.