West Virginia Teachers End Strike After No Action on Doomed Bill - NECN
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West Virginia Teachers End Strike After No Action on Doomed Bill

Schools in 54 of the state's 55 counties were closed for a second day Wednesday

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    West Virginia Teachers End Strike After No Action on Doomed Bill
    AP
    Striking teachers wave at passing cars outside Poca High School Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019, in Poca, W.Va.

    Unions for West Virginia teachers ended their two-day strike Wednesday night after lawmakers did not act on a doomed, broad-based education bill.

    Leaders of three unions representing teachers and school service personnel said at a news conference that classrooms would reopen statewide on Thursday.

    But the leaders said they reserve the right to call teachers back out on strike before the end of the legislative session in early March to take action as they see fit on other education bills.

    The House of Delegates made no mention of Tuesday's passage of a motion that effectively killed the bill.

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    According to legislative rules, a lawmaker who voted to table the bill had until Wednesday to ask to have the vote reconsidered. The House adjourned until Thursday without such a move being made.

    Portions of the complex bill also could still be offered through amendments to other legislation in the final two weeks of the session.

    Schools in 54 of the state's 55 counties were closed for a second day Wednesday. The lone holdout again was Putnam County.

    Unions for teachers and school service workers went on strike Tuesday over the legislation that they said lacked their input and was retaliation for a nine-day walkout last year. That strike launched the national "Red4Ed" movement, which included strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington state, and more recently, Los Angeles and Denver.

    The unions and teachers opposed provisions in the legislation that, among other things, would have created the state's first charter schools and allow education savings accounts for parents to pay for private school. Proponents said the moves would have given parents more school choices.

    The unions have trust issues with lawmakers, especially becoming wary of leaders in the Senate after actions during the 2018 strike and again this month when the chamber rushed to act on the bill.

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    Like the House, the Senate, reversing course from its original bill, removed a clause that would invalidate the entire legislation if any part is struck down, and took out language requiring teachers sign off annually on union dues and requiring teacher pay to be withheld during a strike.

    "We want to be in the classroom," said Charleston elementary school teacher Danielle Loehr. "But we need to be here and paying attention. It's really scary, but that's politics."

    Earlier Wednesday a House committee endorsed a pay increase for teachers, school service workers and state police. The teacher pay raise was part of the original legislation that the House tabled. The House plans a public hearing on the raises Friday. It would give annual salary increases of $2,120 to teachers, $2,370 to state police and $115 per month for school service workers.

    Last year state teachers received an average 5 percent raise to end the nine-day strike.