Teachers in West Virginia plan to strike starting Tuesday, just under a year after the state’s teachers’ unions orchestrated a weeklong-plus walkout that called attention to debilitating circumstances for public school teachers and underfunded school districts nationwide.
According to The Washington Post, the upcoming strike is prompted by an education bill that would make room for the creation of West Virginia’s first charter schools. The state Senate reportedly pushed an amendment through that would a) allow up to seven charter schools to operate in the state and b) create 1,000 savings accounts that parents of children with special needs can use to pay for private school.
Though the amendment’s supporters say it makes room for more choice, the teachers’ unions argue that charter schools will hurt the state’s public education system. Hence the strike: “We are left with no other choice,” Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ West Virginia chapter, said.
West Virginia teachers went on strike on February 22, 2018 over their state-run healthcare plan’s premiums, which had become prohibitively expensive. The strike lasted nine days and resulted in a five percent pay raise, which was implemented at once. It also kicked off a chain reaction of teachers’ strikes nationwide, with successful strikes in Oklahoma, Arizona, Los Angeles, and in Denver, where teachers will return to school tomorrow after a three-day strike resulting in a pay raise.
Low pay and inadequate benefits are some strike catalysts, but teachers are also concerned about underfunded school districts, which both make their jobs unnecessarily difficult and hurt their students. These conditions also cause rapid turnover, and teachers quit their jobs at a record rate in 2018. Unions hope strikes will net better salaries for their members, but they also hope to shed light on decades of institutional neglect—neglect that could very well be exacerbated in West Virginia, should charter schools begin to invade.