CHARLESTON – After being closed 13 days because of a teacher work stoppage, schools across West Virginia opened March 7.
West Virginia Senate Republicans agreed to the 5 percent raise for teachers, school service personnel and State Police during negotiations March 5 and 6. A conference committee of three state senators and three House of Delegate members sent the bill to the House first, where it passed 99-0. Then, the Senate passed the measure by a 34-0 vote. Later, Gov. Jim Justice signed House Bill 4145 into law during an afternoon press conference.
A task force assigned to make changes to Public Employee Insurance Agency, which was a major sticking point for the workers who walked out of their jobs on Feb. 22. That group’s first meeting is scheduled for March 13. Currently, the plan has been frozen from further changes for 16 months.
“Teachers, school service personnel and state employees deserve the best, and I applaud news of an agreement that will increase salaries and end our state’s work stoppage,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said. “I join citizens across our state in celebrating a return to the classroom.”
News of an agreement first began to circulate the morning of March 6. Justice tweeted about it just before 10 a.m. when Senate President Mitch Carmichael and House Speaker Tim Armstead appeared on MetroNews to announce the deal.
“It’s time we invest in education and help our teachers and our kids go back to the classroom with pride in the great state of West Virginia,” Justice said.
Both houses of the Legislature suspended rules and passed the bill by 1 p.m.
“We really appreciate all the folks who put all the work and effort into making sure this gets done today, while at the same time recognizing that these folks who have been out of school are the ones who stood up and said, ‘We have to make public education a priority,” said Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia.