Republican lawmakers look to curtail teacher strikes

Republican lawmakers look to curtail teacher strikes

(W.Va.) The state Senate Monday approved legislation that would prohibit teacher strikes—a response by the GOP majority to last year’s landmark walkout.

The Student Success Act gives school administrators authority to fire teachers for striking and to withhold pay on strike days. It also prohibits superintendents from closing schools because of teacher strikes.

“We have been accused of not listening,” said Republican Sen. Patricia Rucker during Monday’s floor debate. “I have to apologize if I sometimes slip into teacher mode. But listening is not the same … as agreeing. We can listen and we can agree or disagree … I’m here to represent more than just the unions in West Virginia.”

Teachers in West Virginia led a national movement over pay and benefits after winning salary increases and other concessions from lawmakers in February, 2018.

Teachers again walked out one year later in protest of another bill that had some of the same elements of the legislation approved by the state Senate Monday.

In addition to prohibiting teacher work actions, SB 1039 also would allow an unlimited number of charter schools in the state, while also giving charter employees the ability to join the state’s public pension program.

SB 1039 would also establish non-public school vouchers.

The vote came out of a special session that gave GOP leaders some advantages in overcoming opposition.

In talking points posted to their website, the West Virginia Education Association said the bill was full “of the same tired proposals” that the public does not support and has failed before in the House.

“By introducing this bill, the Senate leadership did not listen to the public and education employees of West Virginia,” the teachers’ union said. “It is clear that the public is not interested in the same tired agenda of charters, increased class size and the elimination of employee rights offered by the Senate and their out-of-state interests.”

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