West Virginia teachers, whose strike last spring started the teachers’ strike wave of the last year, are back on the picket line thanks to the Republican state legislature seeking its revenge against the teachers:
West Virginia public school teachers are striking over a new bill that paves the way for charter schools and private school vouchers in a state that relies primarily on public education.
In anticipation of the strike, almost all of the state’s 55 public school systems have canceled classes for Tuesday.
The state’s House of Delegates and Senate have been going back and forth on different versions of a bill that would overhaul West Virginia’s educational system. According to the Charleston Gazette Mail, the education bill raises pay for teachers and increases funding for public schools, but also permits the creation of charter schools in the state, which currently has none.
The bill also funnels public money into a voucher system, called educational savings accounts, that could be used for private and online schooling. The new proposals are unacceptable to the state’s teachers unions, which called for the strike to begin Tuesday.
“We are left with no other choice,” said Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers’ West Virginia chapter, according to The Associated Press.
The charter provisions are an open attempt to bust the teachers unions. Moreover, this bill came out of nowhere:
Democrats in the Senate complained Monday that they didn’t have a chance to digest details in amendments to the bill, which local media said were revealed just 10 minutes before the floor session.
“Why are we pushing it through with about 10 minutes of advance notice?” said Democrat Michael Romano, the AP reported. “Here we are with no time to digest it.” The Senate then adjourned for an hour to give lawmakers a chance to read the proposals.
In a statement, the president of the state Senate criticized the unions for their decision to strike for the second time in two school years.
“After years of ruining our state’s public education system, the teacher union bosses have finally lost their grip on the Legislature and seemingly have lost their grip on reality,” Republican Sen. Mitch Carmichael wrote Monday evening. “Locking our students out of schools because the teachers union bosses have lost is an embarrassment for our state.”
There’s a lot of terrible provisions throughout this bill. This is how one teacher put it:
WV teacher Rebecca Diamond — who was working weekends at Hardee's last year when I first talked to her — says this year's strike is different: "Last year we were fighting for us. Now we're fighting for our students, to be able to get what they deserve through public education."
— Dave Jamieson (@jamieson) February 19, 2019
“Keep the pay raise,” Gary said. “This hurts education so badly, we don’t want it. Kill the whole bill, stop the whole thing. We’re willing to give up our pay raise to show how much we mean it.”
This is about the future of public education in West Virginia. That state’s Republicans are all in with discredited charters that destroy one of the nation’s finest institutions. The teachers are standing up for their students and themselves both. Moreover, this is very clearly about power. If the teachers can win, they may turn the tide of the horrible politics that hurt students, though defeating Republicans in West Virginia is a tall order. But if the teachers are crushed here, it would be a devastating defeat for the teachers’ movement. This is an extremely important moment. If the teachers can stand together, a very positive result could occur. If they can’t, I am fearful.