Teachers in all 55 counties across West Virginia are going on a statewide strike beginning Tuesday in protest of a Republican-sponsored bill targeting public schools.
CBS affiliate WTRF reported that the strike was officially underway Monday night. Teachers would not immediately say if the strike would impact public schools for an extended period of time, only saying they would consider extending the strike on a day-to-day basis. KDKA in Pittsburgh reported that teachers viewed the education reform bill — Senate Bill 451 — as retaliation for the 2018 teachers’ strike in which teachers won higher pay and more funding for public schools.
As it’s currently written, Senate Bill 451 would allow for the opening of up to seven charter schools in West Virginia, and allow up to 1,000 education savings accounts which parents could then use to pay for sending their children to private schools.
According to West Virginia Public Broadcasting, the bill — sponsored by Senator Patricia Rucker (R) — includes things teachers approve of, like pay raises for both educators and staff in public schools. However, Delegate Cody Thompson, who is a teacher, (D) told WVPB that lawmakers refused to listen to educators who were united in their opposition to charter schools.
“The teachers of this state, the service personnel of this state have overwhelmingly said ‘We do not want charter schools. Do not try to bribe us. We don’t want it,’ ” Thompson said. “I have a problem with passing legislation that directly affects an occupation where people say they don’t want part of that legislation.”
As Grit Post previously reported, the charter school movement has largely proven to be ineffective at improving student performance. However, one thing charter schools have done well is siphoning money from public schools. And unlike their public counterparts, many charter schools are privately owned, operate on a for-profit basis, and are largely unaccountable, despite receiving public funds.
The upcoming strike comes on the heels of the bill’s passage in the West Virginia House of Delegates, and on the eve of a likely conference committee to hammer out a final version of the bill. Teachers are likely aiming to pressure lawmakers to keep the pay raises in Senate Bill 451, while axing the charter school and private school provisions.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.