West Virginia teachers continued to be on strike Wednesday to maintain pressure against a bill that allows the opening of the state's first seven charter schools and creates an education savings account program, which would allow low-income families to apply for public funds to pay tuition in private institutions.
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The educators, who also left their jobs in 2018 to demand higher salaries, reactivated their struggle this week. Most of the 700 schools were on strike against an education reform bill (S.B. 451) which would allow charter schools to be funded by taxpayers but operate independently of the public system.
"We are left no other choice ... we are calling to statewide strike of our teachers and our service personnel," Fred Albert, president of the West Virginia American Federation of Teachers chapter, said according to KJRH TV, and added that "our voice has been shut out."
This proposal was apparently defeated in the state House of Delegates on Tuesday by a vote of 53-45. However, given that both houses are controlled by the Republicans, the educators decided to continue with the pressure to make their message clear.
For his part, Mitch Carmichael, president of the Senate of West Virginia, said that the defeat of the law was only a delay in carrying out a project that seeks to give parents the right to choose where their children will be educated. The senators supporting the bill say they want to improve the West Virginan education system's competition, choice and flexibility.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) pointed out that the Republican-backed bill would divert money from public schools as it allows for the creation of publicly funded education savings account system to help parents pay for private schools.
The Federation also indicated that the bill was approved by the Senate as an act of retaliation for the 2018 strike, which improved the remuneration of West Virginians teachers, who are among the most underpaid educators in the United States.
In March 2018, the West Virginia teachers strike sparked similar actions in Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Chicago, North Carolina and Los Angeles. On this year, the wave of strikes could begin again as several thousand teachers in Oakland are expected to strike over charter school accountability and plan to close several schools that serve black and Latino students. Teachers in Oakland are also asking for raises and more nurses and guidance counselors.