West Virginia Teachers Strike Continues After Senate Vote Snag
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
We're going to start the program in West Virginia, where schools are expected to be closed again Monday as a state teacher walkout enters its eighth school day. This after a confusing weekend at the state capitol in Charleston. Molly Born from West Virginia Public Broadcasting has been covering this story, and she's with us now.
Molly, thanks so much for joining us.
MOLLY BORN, BYLINE: Thanks, Michel.
MARTIN: So what happened at the capitol over the weekend?
BORN: Senators and the West Virginia State Senate passed a teacher pay-raise bill of 4 percent, and that was less than what teachers had been asking for. They wanted a 5 percent raise, and it was a bit hectic. It was an awkward process because senators actually ended up passing the original House version of the bill that allowed for a 5 percent raise. And they had to go back, retract, recall that process and then pass it again - again, with the 4 percent raise. And it was very confusing - sort of a long, drawn-out process over many hours. Teachers were in the galleries watching this happen - a sort of mass confusion - but, ultimately, they passed a 4 percent raise - again, less than what the teachers had asked for.
MARTIN: Why did they do that? Did they explain why they did that? It was my understanding that the governor, Jim Justice, had negotiated this 5 percent pay raise. That's why the House passed it. The teachers had an understanding that that was going to be the agreement. How did the Senate explain their decision to change that?
BORN: That's right. Just a day after Governor Justice introduced that plan, the House of Delegates passed it rather quickly. It was almost unanimous. The lawmaker who introduced the amendment to the bill to make the raise 4 percent rather than 5 percent said that the reasoning behind that was so the money saved could go toward giving a raise to every public employee in West Virginia, not just teachers and school service personnel. Essentially, he said, everybody deserves to have that 4 percent raise and the money saved would enable that to happen.
MARTIN: Can you just give us a sense of the mood there? You said that it was kind of an emotional rollercoaster for the teachers. But I'm just wondering, what are we going to expect tomorrow when the Senate resumes its work?
BORN: The word that kept coming to me over and over again was tense. It's a tense scene, no question. And I should note that what's happening today - schools have been announcing closures for tomorrow, sort of officially saying they're not going to be coming in. But because the House of Delegates passed this 5 percent raise, and because the Senate passed a 4 percent and - they can't agree. They're at an impasse right now. They're going to have to hash this out in a special committee that includes three lawmakers from each chamber, and they could meet as early as today - could be tomorrow - but they're going to be essentially sitting down these six lawmakers and trying to get past this impasse.
MARTIN: That's Molly Born from West Virginia Public Broadcasting joining us from Charleston. Molly, thank you.
BORN: Thank you so much.
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