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Teachers from WV southern counties flood Capitol in protest

American Federation of Teachers of West Virginia President Christine Campbell speaks at a union rally Wednesday, Jan. 24, saying that teachers might strike if the Legislature doesn’t address pay and benefits.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Hundreds of teachers and other public employees from throughout West Virginia filled the Capitol Rotunda Friday morning to call on legislators to hear their concerns on wages and employee insurance programs.

All public schools in Mingo, Logan and Wyoming counties closed their doors Friday for the walkouts while their teachers flocked to Charleston, where they were joined by those from other counties whose schools were closed for weather.

“We’re pushing for our rights, because it has been so bad for teachers for so long, and they expect us to do more with less. We have been doing that, but they keep taking more and more,” said Tiffany Sargent, a third-grade teacher at Verdunville Elementary, in Logan County.

A news conference was scheduled at 10:30 a.m. Friday for Gov. Jim Justice to discuss public education issues, but it was canceled early in the morning, with no reason given, via a statement from the Governor’s Office.

Amelia Mullens, a biology teacher at Wyoming East High School, said, “This pay raise means a pay cut.”

Mullens said proposed PEIA changes would lead to her paying $313 per month for insurance.

“Do the math — you can say ‘raise’ all you want, but that’s not what this is,” Mullens said. “We are all going to be worse off.”

In recent days, Justice has expressed interest in loosening PEIA requirements and reducing premiums. There are public hearings scheduled in Morgantown, Charleston and Beckley over the next two weeks, but teachers at the Capitol on Friday were not impressed.

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