AP Photo/Robert Ray
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The Latest on a statewide teachers strike in West Virginia (all times local):
The House of Delegates has passed a 5 percent pay raise for striking teachers after a legislative conference committee agreed to the figure.
With teachers cheering from the gallery, the measure passed the House 99-0 Tuesday, providing 5 percent raises for teachers, school service personnel and state troopers. It now awaits action in the state Senate.
The governor, union leaders and the House of Delegates had agreed to the raise last week for teachers, who are among the lowest paid in the nation and haven’t had a salary increase in four years. But the Senate refused to go along, approving a 4 percent increase Saturday. The six-member conference committee then agreed to the 5 percent figure Tuesday, and for more than just teachers.
Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair says to pay for the raises, lawmakers will seek to cut state spending by $20 million, taking funds from general government services and Medicaid. Other state workers who also would get 5 percent raises under the deal will have to wait for a budget bill to pass.
Teachers have been on strike since Feb. 22.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice says a tentative agreement has been reached to end a nine-day statewide teachers’ strike by giving them the 5 percent raises he negotiated to end their walkout.
He said Tuesday that additional budget cuts by his staff will enable all state workers to also get 5 percent raises.
Senate Republicans confirmed the deal, saying it involves some reduced government.
On Twitter, Justice says: “I stood rock solid on the 5% Teacher pay raise and delivered. Not only this, but my staff and I made additional cuts which will give all State employees 5% as well. All the focus should have always been on fairness and getting the kids back in school.”
West Virginia legislators plan to meet Tuesday in search of a compromise that could end the strike by West Virginia teachers, now entering its ninth day.
A show of support by thousands of teachers and supporters on Monday didn’t immediately sway the lawmakers, who failed to agree on a 5 percent pay raise, forcing another day of cancelled classes for the school system’s 277,000 students and 35,000 employees.
The governor, union leaders and the House of Delegates agreed to the 5 percent pay raise for the teachers, who are among the lowest paid in the nation and haven’t had a salary increase in four years. The Senate offered only 4 percent.
A conference committee of six House and Senate members met for the second time Monday evening, where Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns said his chamber’s leadership was offering “a compromise position.” He noted it was only preliminary. Details were not disclosed publicly. The committee planned to meet again Tuesday morning.