The Latest: Walkout to keep West Virginia schools closed
Mar. 01, 2018
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The Latest on a statewide walkout by teachers in West Virginia over pay and benefits (all times local):
Officials say public schools in all 55 of West Virginia's counties will remain closed as a walkout by teachers and school service personnel enters its seventh day.
The Department of Education said Thursday evening that the strike over low pay and rising health insurance costs would keep public schools closed Friday.
A deal including 5 percent raises negotiated by Gov. Jim Justice and union leaders was expected to return teachers to their classrooms Thursday.
The House of Delegates voted 98-1 on Wednesday night to pass it.
But the Senate's Republican majority voted 20-14 against taking the bill to an immediate floor vote Thursday and instead sent it to the Finance Committee, which won't meet until Friday.
The West Virginia Senate has adjourned for the day without taking up the 5 percent pay raise Gov. Jim Justice negotiated with union leaders to end teachers' weeklong walkout.
The pay raise legislation was referred the Senate Finance Committee. Panel chairman Sen. Craig Blair says it won't meet Thursday and wasn't scheduled to meet.
The Martinsburg Republican says it will meet Friday and consider the state budget for next year and other bills.
The Senate's majority Republicans voted earlier Thursday to send the bill to that committee instead of immediately taking it up for floor consideration.
The House on Wednesday night skipped the committee process and voted 98-1 to approve the 5 percent raises to end the walkout that began a week ago.
The West Virginia Senate has voted 20-14 against immediately considering legislation that would provide a 5 percent pay raise to teachers — a key part of the deal negotiated between Gov. Jim Justice and union leaders to end the statewide walkout that has closed public schools for a week.
The Republican-controlled House voted 98-1 on Wednesday night to pass the bill.
All but one member of the Senate's Republican majority voted Thursday not to follow suit and instead refer the bill to the chamber's Finance Committee for review and consideration.
Sen. Tom Takubo, a Charleston Republican, says they have to be fiscally responsible and the more important issue is finding a funding source to stabilize the public employees' insurance plan.
Sen. John Unger, a Martinsburg Democrat, says it will be the Senate's fault for delaying and causing the strike to keep schools closed again Friday.
With the state Senate scheduled to reconvene shortly, the Senate clerk says in a tweet that legislation with the 5 percent pay raise for teachers, school service personnel and state troopers has been received and will go first to the Senate Finance Committee.
It was approved by the House 98-1 Wednesday night.
It's accompanied by a revised tax revenue estimate from Gov. Jim Justice, who says that will pay for next year's raises.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael on Wednesday expressed skepticism over the suddenly revised estimate for $58 million additional tax money in the next fiscal year, saying senators will review it.
The governor's office cited increased sales and income taxes from the state's road rebuilding program and future bond sales "and positive feedback associated with federal tax reform."
Thousands of West Virginia teachers have returned to the state Capitol to pressure lawmakers to push through new pay raises for them.
Public schools were canceled in all 55 West Virginia counties Thursday, the day they originally were scheduled to return to the classroom.
The House of Delegates on Wednesday approved a 5 percent pay raise for teachers in the first year. The Senate is expected to consider it Thursday.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael has expressed skepticism about Gov. Jim Justice's suddenly higher projected tax revenues that would pay for the pay boosts.
Middle school teacher Jacob Staggers of Morgantown says union leaders and state officials had expected teachers to return to work, but he says "we're not just going to go back on good faith."
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. Nonetheless, school classrooms in all 55 counties are to remain closed Thursday.
House approval of Gov. Jim Justice's proposed raise came on a 98-1 vote Wednesday evening. It now goes to the Senate for consideration during the day. But Senate President Mitch Carmichael has expressed skepticism about projected tax increases the governor says will help fund pay raises.
Hundreds of teachers have gathered for days at the state Capitol in Charleston, protesting what they say is among the lowest teacher pay in the country. They also are complaining about projected increases in their health insurance costs.