All public schools in West Virginia closed on Thursday as teachers prepared to strike for better wages and health insurance options, even when Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill to increase teacher salaries.
Still, dozens of teachers are gathering outside of schools on Thursday, ready to travel to Charleston, WV, to attend a rally outside the capitol, WSAZ reported.
On the eve of the impending strike, Justice, a Republican, signed a bill that would raise pay for teachers and state employees. Employees will receive a two percent increase next year and a one percent increase next year, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
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Justice said it is important to keep both teachers and children in the classroom.
"We certainly recognize that our teachers receive an inadequate salary and this is a step in the right direction to address their salary problem." The PEIA board [finance] has also voted to approve the changes I recommended, "Justice said in a statement. "I have asked and the PEIA board has voted to eliminate the mandatory participation in the Go365 program, the use of combined household income to determine rates and freeze the plan for 16 months while we examine it and establish a long-term solution term for PEIA problems. "
State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey wrote in a statement that "the imminent work stoppage is illegal." "
" State law and court decisions give the parties specific remedies for such illegal conduct, including the option of requesting an injunction to end an illegal strike, "Morrisey said. This illegal work stoppage affects hundreds of thousands of students and families throughout our state. Our office is prepared to support any relevant state agency or board with the legal resources that may choose to defend the law. We are also ready to assist and support any county board of education or the county superintendent while enforcing the law. "
According to the National Education Association, West Virginia teachers earn an average salary of $ 45,622, which ranks 48th among states, with a national average of $ 58,353.
Associated Press contributed to this report.