WSAZ Explains: Why W.Va. teachers went on strike again

CABELL COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Tuesday was the beginning of yet another teacher strike in West Virginia.

Last year, teachers went on strike for nine days over rising health care costs and pay.

But the driving factor for this year's strike is different.

"I hate that we are out here again," said Milton Middle teacher Ashley Steele. "I can't believe we are out here again. But drastic times call for drastic measures."

On Monday, state senators pushed an amended education bill through. Teachers say that bill added several things they didn't agree with.

"It was kind of like in college when you had just enough quarters to do laundry and you just tossed everything in. That's what they did," said Gene Estel, a teacher at Winfield High School in Putnam County.

Some of the things that were added to the bill include allowing seven public charter schools in West Virginia.

The House's version of the bill only allowed for two pilot charter schools.

"If we open public charter schools, it's going to take funding away from public schools," Steele said.

"Charter schools pull money from public educations for the purpose of a for-profit school," Estel said.

"It affects everybody differently," said Reuben Ellis, a teacher at Hurricane High School in Putnam County. "You have seniority and ESAs. To me personally, charter schools, that is one of my biggest complaints."

The Senate's version of the bill also included 1,000 ESA accounts, which are Education Savings Accounts for students leaving public education to go to private schools.

ESAs are government issued savings accounts that give parents the option to use money toward things like private school tuition and fees.

However, in the Senate's version, those would only be given to special needs students and students who are considered to be bullied.

ESAs were not included in the House's version of the education bill.

Teachers say another big concern is how quickly the bill was pushed through the Senate and the fact that so many different things were lumped into one bill.

"We feel this proposal doesn't help all students. What they are proposing isn't useful, it isn't helpful for all of our students," Steele said. "There are a lot of good things in that bill, but there is also a lot of bad things. So to put them all together in one big lump, it's just not good."

The Senate's bill also included a long-promised pay raise for educators along with charter schools and ESAs.

Teachers say the House's version of the bill was a compromise that they were OK with and that their issues lie within the Senate's amended version.

However, that amended version was tabled on Tuesday.

To see how the bill has evolved in both chambers, check out the related document with this story.

But union representatives announced Tuesday evening during a news conference that the statewide strike will be ongoing Wednesday.

Representatives say they have trust issues with lawmakers and want to be back to see what happens.

However, they went on to say they believe teachers will be back in classrooms on Thursday.

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