MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (KDKA) – Horns honked in support of a group of striking teachers in Morgantown, W.Va., as the statewide work stoppage stretched into its seventh day.
“I’m [living] paycheck to paycheck,” teacher Holly Rich said.
At $46,000 a year, West Virginia teacher salaries are 22 percent below the national average, and teachers across the state say they’re resolved to hold out for higher pay and better health benefits so they can keep at their jobs.
“We’re out here for our kids,” Rich said. “Some say it’s about money, but it’s more for our kids.”
In recent days, crowds have jammed the capital, where Governor Justice has thrown his support for a 5 percent salary bump, but the proposal has stalled in the state senate and so the strike drags on.
“West Virginians are strong people, they support each other and help each other and that’s what we’ve counting on.”
Despite the disruption, the community seems squarely behind the strikers. One church is offering free child care for out-of-school kids as volunteers pop popcorn for a showing of “Bruce Almighty.”
“The teacher do have the parents’ support,” youth minister Yvonne Lee said. “All of our parents love their teachers.”
The teachers in the state are calling on higher taxes on the natural gas industry to fund education.
“They’re not paying anything really to take gas from West Virginia out of state for other uses,” teacher Anna Simmons said. “We are sitting on a goldmine in West Virginia, and we’re repeatedly told that we’re a broke state.”
With the support of the public behind them, the resolve of the teachers remains strong. They intend to hold out until they get what they feel they deserve.