After several years of no pay increases and traditionally sitting near the bottom in teacher salaries, the teachers of West Virginia finally earned a 5% pay increase after a strike that shut down public schools state wide.

The statewide teachers’ strike that shuttered West Virginia schools for almost two weeks appeared all but over on Tuesday when Gov. James C. Justice signed a bill to give teachers and other state employees a 5 percent pay raise.

A crowd of teachers wearing the red T-shirts that have come to symbolize their strike cheered as Mr. Justice, a Republican, signed the pay raise bill in a theater on the Capitol grounds. The bill had been passed unanimously earlier in the day by both houses of the Republican-controlled Legislature.

This is a big win for organized labor and the students of West Virginia who can now go back to school!

Unfortunately this labor victory was tainted by some legislators claiming the budget shortfall from giving the teachers raises would come from some of the state’s medicaid funds. That would be one of the worst examples of Republicans borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. But the West Virginia Governor James C. Justice tried to put that rumor to rest:

Unlike a previous proposed raise that was backed by Mr. Justice and the State House of Delegates, the deal reached on Tuesday had the support of Mitch Carmichael, the president of the State Senate. Mr. Carmichael said the deal would probably lead to painful cuts in other parts of the state budget; another Republican senator, Craig Blair, said in a conference committee that Medicaid would be among the areas cut.

“These things come at a cost,” Mr. Carmichael said.

But as he signed the bill, Mr. Justice tried to dispel the suggestion that the pay raise would come at the expense of Medicaid recipients.

“There’s not a chance on this planet that’s going to be the case,” Mr. Justice said. “We have cash in the balances in Medicaid that will absolutely backstop any cuts whatsoever from Medicaid.”

Deep sigh of relief!

Hopefully the state will continue to evaluate its teacher pay scale and continue to pay teachers what they are worth and closer to the median for the nation. Congrats to the West Virginia Education Association!

Side note: I wasn’t aware that some states pay school public teachers statewide rather that from local school districts ala Wisconsin.

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