By Sahid Fawaz
Teachers in West Virginia have officially walked out.
"Teachers across West Virginia walked off the job Thursday amid a dispute over pay and benefits, causing more than 275,000 students to miss classes even as educators gathered at the state Capitol in Charleston.
The Charleston Gazette-Mail reported that more than 1,000 people were outside the Capitol on Thursday morning. Among those who had gathered: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, a major teachers union.
'I’m reporting for duty on the picket line,' Weingarten told the Gazette-Mail. 'They are engaged in a righteous and fundamental American values fight for dignity and respect.'
All 55 counties in the state closed schools during Thursday’s work stoppage, Alyssa Keedy, a spokeswoman for the state’s Department of Education, said in an email. More than 277,000 students are enrolled in West Virginia’s public schools . . .
“I don’t think people recognize how dire it is, and how it directly impacts students’ learning,” Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, told HuffPost. “Teacher vacancies are increasing. There are classrooms with no teacher of record. . . . We’ve actually been educating teachers at our universities in West Virginia and they’re not staying here.”
HuffPost, citing data from the National Education Association, noted that in 2016, West Virginia ranked 48th in average teacher salaries. Only Mississippi, Oklahoma and South Dakota were below it in the rankings, which included 50 states and the District.
The salary for beginning teachers is $32,435 a year, and the average teacher salary is $44,701, according to the West Virginia Education Associatioin.
"'We’re not saying we want to be first in pay,' Campbell told HuffPost. 'It’s about actually having a living wage. We have to be able to survive. We have families. Our students are suffering because of the lack of an ability to attract and retain people.'"
For the rest of the story, visit the Washington Post.