UPDATE: Pay raise for W.Va. teachers' on hold by lawmakers; awaiting information from governor

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- UPDATE 2/28/18 @ 11:10 a.m.
West Virginia lawmakers on Wednesday say they're awaiting information from Gov. Jim Justice's office before they can move forward with the governor's plans to give teachers a 5 percent raise, according to the House communications director.

He said there was a discussion on the House floor, and lawmaker are awaiting an official letter from the governor changing the revenue estimates.

The process is on hold, he says, until the official correspondence comes through, explaining that the executive branch sets official budget estimates.

Justice announced Tuesday evening that teachers would receive a 5 percent raise, and a task force will be set up to deal with issues with the state Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA).

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 2/27/18 @ 10 p.m.
At the end of the fourth day of the West Virginia teachers strike, Governor Jim Justice and union leaders announced they'd come to an agreement to put educators back in the classrooms.

"I was looking at this maybe not correctly," Justice said.

The governor and union leaders said they'd agreed that school across the state will resume Thursday. Classes will not be held Wednesday, which will serve as a "cooling off period."

Under Justice's proposal, teachers and service personnel would receive a 5 percent raise, and a task force would be set up to deal with PEIA issues.

Other state employees would receive a 3 percent raise.

"If I raise the revenue estimate, there's a way to do it," Justice said.

The revenue estimate for the next fiscal year would go up by $58,000,000.

Mike Hall, the governor's chief of staff, says that figure is reliable.

"With the growth in the economy that's happening nationally, and we're seeing evidences of this, it's not irresponsible to project these numbers," Hall said.

A bill would have to be drafted and passed for the raises to become official.

"To say why didn't you do this a few weeks ago, we know there have been a lot of issues in West Virginia and our public education, and now we have a commitment," AFT-WV President Christine Campbell said.

Union leaders say if the House and Senate reject the governor's proposal, the walk-outs could resume.

"We are taking this deal in good faith at this point," WVEA President Dale Lee said, "but we reserve the right if things get bogged down, our people may have to get called back out again."

After Justice's announcement, Senate President Mitch Carmichael said there are troubling inconsistencies with the message, and they want to be diligent in evaluating the numbers.



UPDATE 2/27/18 @ 6:30 p.m.
West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice announced Tuesday evening that teachers will receive a 5 percent raise in the first year and are expected back in class by Thursday.

The governor, speaking from the Capitol, said Wednesday will be a "cooling off period."

"We’re going to give all state employees a 3 percent raise," Justice said, adding that those in education will receive an extra 2 percent that first year.

He also said he and lawmakers are "going to dig into PEIA for fixes."

We will have more details on this developing story.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 2/27/18 @ 4 p.m.
Union leaders are still meeting with Gov. Jim Justice at this hour Tuesday about the statewide teacher strike.

Union leaders just announced the meeting has been productive and they are in negotiations.

They are expecting the governor will call them back into the meeting in the next hour or two.

Leaders say they feel very good about the progress they’ve made.

Union leaders say they have not made a decision about whether or not the teachers and service personnel will return to school.

They hope to have an announcement soon once they meet again with the governor.



UPDATE 2/27/18 @ 3:30 p.m.
West Virginia Board of Education President Steven Paine said he's optimistic about talks between Gov. Jim Justice and union leaders about the ongoing statewide teacher strike.

"So there’s a meeting going on right now," Paine said Tuesday during a regularly scheduled state board meeting. "I understand it’s going quite nicely ... we’re very hopeful we’ll seen an outcome that will be positive and get kids back in school."

Tuesday marked the fourth day of the work stoppage, which is affecting all 55 counties, mainly because of stagnant wages and issues with the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA).

"There might be a resolution; there might not be," Paine said, adding "We’re seeing a coming together … I think that’s very, very positive."

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 2/27/18 @ 1:12 p.m.
Union leaders tell WSAZ they have a 2 p.m. meeting today with Gov. Jim Justice's office about the teacher strike that is in its fourth day.

Union leaders say they have made progress and all unions will be represented at the meeting with the governor's office.

Leaders also made the announcement in front of teachers and service personnel that are rallying inside the state Capitol in Charleston.

Union leaders say they will not make a decision on whether the work stoppage will continue Wednesday until after this meeting.

We have a crew at the Capitol.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 2/26/18 @ 3 p.m.
Thousands packed the West Virginia State Capitol grounds Monday afternoon in a defiant show of protest for striking teachers and state service personnel as they announced the statewide strike will continue Tuesday.

The rally, which included members of the United Mine Workers Association, featured chants and mention of names of civil rights leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks.

"When it comes to breaking the law, I say so what? So what!” said Joe White, executive director of the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association. "Some of us would be put in jail for what some are doing."

The crowd frequently broke into chants, including "In November we will remember," "55 strong," "do your job," and "we are united."

"The nation is watching," said Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). "We need you to do your job so we can do our jobs."

Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA), said "We’re here for the students of West Virginia. I’ve got news for them. Our voices won’t be silenced anymore."

Monday marked the third day teachers and state service workers have been off the job because of stagnant wages, as well as issues with the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA).

"Your voices and solidarity is making waves across this nation," White said. "Let everybody hear we’re not going to take this anymore. It’s time West Virginia stands up to corporate greed and takes our state back."

State officials say more than 5,300 people attended Monday's rally.

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



UPDATE 2/23/18
The statewide teacher work stoppage will continue through Monday, the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA) announced Friday afternoon during a news conference.

"We need to start the discussions again with the House and the Senate in the leadership," said Dale Lee, president of the WVEA. "(Legislators) and the governor need to go back to the table and start to work on solutions that can be satisfactory to the educators across the state to resolve this."

Lee and several other WVEA and AFT officials and educators, including AFT President Christine Campbell, packed the state Capitol, saying their conditions have not been met.

They say the most recent legislation passed and signed by Gov. Jim Justice this week – including a 2 percent pay raise for the first year and a 1 percent raise the next two years – isn’t enough.

“They can’t continue to leave the state in droves because they can make more somewhere else,” Lee said of teachers.

Campbell said, “We have to see some kind of commitment to the issues we have been talking about.

In addition to the pay issue, educators, service personnel, and some other state employees have voiced their concern about changes to the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) funds.

The AFT-West Virginia, WVEA and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association later released this statement:

“It is clear that education employees are not satisfied with the inaction of legislative leadership or the Governor to date. Education employees have not seen appropriate progress on issues vital to teachers, professional personnel and service personnel, and that is why they are still here. We continue to await legislative action to satisfy the needs of education employees so they may return to the schools and continue to provide quality education to the children of our State. Our members have spoken and the Legislature has not. As a result, the education employees are not prepared to go back to work yet. Therefore, teachers and service personnel across the state will continue to be out on Monday.”

Keep checking WSAZ Mobile and WSAZ.com for the latest information.



ORIGINAL STORY 2/22/18
Every public school classroom in West Virginia is empty Thursday as teachers and service personnel begin a two day work stoppage.

Dozens of teachers lined up along the road near Riverside High School holding signs saying "Enough is Enough" as they protest for better pay and health insurance plans.

American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten joined the group as they staged a walk out of the school.

The group plans to spend some time at the school before heading to the state Capitol in Charleston for a much larger rally with teachers across West Virginia.

Teachers were also out in front of other schools across West Virginia. All the groups plan to meet at Laidley Field in Charleston to head over to the Capitol together.

Late Wednesday, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey issued a statement saying walkouts could lead to injunctions.

"The impending work stoppage is unlawful. State law and court rulings give specific parties avenues to remedy such illegal conduct, including the option to seek an injunction to end an unlawful strike," Morrisey said in his statement. “This illegal work stoppage affects hundreds of thousands of students and families across our state. Our office is prepared to support any relevant state agency or board with legal remedies they may choose to pursue to uphold the law. We also stand ready to assist and support any county board of education or county superintendent as they enforce the law."

Also, Wednesday Gov. Jim Justice signed the pay raise bill into law. Teachers, school service personnel, state police, and all other state employees will get a 2 percent pay raise in the upcoming fiscal year.

After that state police and school service personnel will get a 1 percent raise next year, while teachers will get a 1 percent raise in each of the following two years.

In a release Governor Justice said "We need to keep our kids and teachers in the classroom. We certainly recognize our teachers are underpaid and this is a step in the right direction to addressing their pay."



 
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