West Virginia Schools Remain Closed despite Raise Deal

West Virginia’s House has OK’d a 5 percent pay raise negotiated by the governor to end a walkout by the state’s teachers though schools in all 55 counties plan to stay closed Thursday, Fox News reports.

House approval of Gov. Jim Justice’s proposed raise came on a 98-1 vote Wednesday evening. The Senate, which had adjourned earlier, was set to consider it Thursday. Its leader, President Mitch Carmichael, expressed skepticism about the governor’s suddenly higher projected tax increases that would pay for the pay boosts but said that chamber would review it.

Hundreds of teachers gathered inside the Capitol on Wednesday protesting low pay and projected increases in their insurance costs and chanted “we won’t back down.” Others held a sign targeting legislators in the upcoming primary: “Make ’em pay in May.” They occupied the House galleries to watch the vote.

“We would not be here looking at this had they not stood up and said enough is enough is enough is enough,” said Delegate Rick Moye, a Raleigh County Democrat. What they really want most is a permanent funding fix to offset rising insurance costs, he added.

Teachers and service personnel in all West Virginia’s 55 counties walked off the job last Thursday, noting they were among the lowest paid in the country.

All 100 seats in the House are up for election this year, along with half the 34 seats in the Senate. Teachers have promised to pay close attention to each lawmaker’s actions and vote accordingly.

Justice announced the deal Tuesday evening after meeting with union leaders for teachers in all 55 counties. They’d been expected to return to work Thursday after striking a week earlier, but some strikers said they weren’t satisfied.

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