Public school teachers across West Virginia are demanding higher pay and better insurance. Now, a statewide strike, which was originally supposed to end on March 1, continues to keep school out of session. In total, 277,000 students in 55 counties have been out of the classroom for a week.
Schools closing was a large concern for teachers at Beckley Elementary in Beckley because they know that a large population of students rely on breakfast and lunch programs for food. So, they didn’t let a little thing like school being closed keep them from feeding their students.
A couple of teachers told Today.com about their efforts, recalling how the faculty gathered their funds to buy water, fruit and other snacks and made plans to hand the food out at a local grocery store.
“A lot of our students depend on school breakfast and lunch as some of their most consistent meals,” Jennifer Wood, from the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers, told Today.com. “Our teachers wouldn’t feel comfortable if their students weren’t taken care of.”
Little Caesar’s and Sam’s Club also donated to the teachers’ cause as well.
When the teachers still had pizzas left at the end of the day, they started making door-to-door deliveries to their students at home. Clearly, these are some devoted educators!
“That was the coolest part of the situation, getting to go to them,” Patrick Williams, a social worker at Beckley Elementary, told Today.com. “A couple of them were shocked at first,” he said.
This elementary school wasn’t the only place showing their concern for students’ well-being, either. Schools across the state came together to make sure students were fed. Here, you can see a time-lapse of Horace Mann Middle School creating bags of food for students:
Why Are West Virginia Teachers On Strike?
Governor Jim Justice originally promised a 5 percent raise for teachers that would end the strike and have school resuming on March 1. He has instead passed legislation with a 2 percent pay increase beginning in July, as well as a 1 percent increase in 2020 and 2021.
According to the National Education Association, the base pay for teachers in West Virginia is $32,435 and the average salary for teachers is $44,701. Reuters reports that the state ranked 48th out of the 50 states for this average salary, making it one of the lowest-paying states.
State Senator Mitch Carmichael told CNN he was worried the state didn’t have the funds to fulfill the 5 percent pay increase. “We cannot continue to spend money we do not have or write checks we cannot cash,” he told CNN.
Support From Students
Right now it’s yet to be determined if West Virginia teachers will have their salaries raised. In the meantime, some students are there to support them. According to CNN, students also picketed and created the hashtag #SecureOurFuture to show their support for teachers:
“I wish it wouldn’t have come to this and that I was still in school, but I want the teachers to get the wages that they deserve, so I’m all right with it,” Victoria Blickenstaff, a sophomore at Fairmont Senior High School told CNN. She and some friends attended the strike with signs reading “Students Support Teachers” and “We Love Teachers.”
These teachers and students are proving how caring for one another, no matter the circumstance, is a powerful thing.