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Statehouse Beat: Justice’s PEIA albatross remains

By Phil Kabler, Charleston Gazette-Mail

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Throughout their reign, the GOP legislative supermajority has treated public school and public employees as adversaries, perhaps because they are the literal personification of the party’s failure to achieve a core goal of drastically shrinking the size of government and government services.

Certainly, two successful statewide walkouts by public school teachers exacerbated that feeling, as massive protests in Capitol hallways day after day left members of the Republican Party humiliated and angry.

Ever since, the GOP has been out to exact revenge, enacting measures to hamstring the state teachers’ unions and to systematically shift state funds from public education to private, parochial and charter schools.

Which brings us to PEIA, the state-managed health insurance coverage for public school and public employees.

When I first set foot in the Capitol many years ago, state public sector salaries were notably lower than similar positions in the private sector, as they continue to be. But the low pay was offset by a generous benefits package, including good pension plans and affordable, high quality health insurance.

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