By RYAN QUINN
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — All 55 West Virginia counties closed their public schools Thursday for the first day of what unions have announced, so far, will be a two-day work stoppage by public school employees — the first in state history of this magnitude to include teachers and school service personnel.
Despite Attorney General Patrick Morrisey’s statements Wednesday that public school employee work stoppages are “illegal,” and state Schools Superintendent Steve Paine earlier calling them “not lawful,” thousands of people, many in red, a smaller number in blue, began converging around and inside the state Capitol in Charleston on a foggy Thursday morning.
Senate President Mitch Carmichael, R-Jackson, and House of Delegates Speaker Tim Armstead, R-Kanawha, didn’t signal by Thursday afternoon that the statewide work stoppage had changed their minds about what to do regarding employee pay raises, Public Employees Insurance Agency health coverage funding and the other, seemingly lesser, issues that are among the protesters’ complaints.
“I think we’re on the right path,” Carmichael said. “We appreciate hearing from the education community. Again, I’ll reiterate the fact that I wish they would have stayed in school. I think it’s an illegal walkout, and I’m disappointed they felt they had to come here to make those points known. I felt those points had already been taken into account.
“We want to provide as much as we can, in terms of a great compensation package,” he said. “We change what’s right for West Virginia based on an outpouring of emotion from a particular group of people? We shouldn’t be susceptible to that, we should absolutely do the right thing based on the data and analysis and so forth, and not be persuaded by a large demonstration.”
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