The West Virginia House of Delegates on Friday approved pay raises for teachers and public school service workers a day after they returned to classrooms following a two-day strike.
The bill that passed the House 89-8 also includes raises for state police. The governor last fall requested the raises, which still need Senate approval.
“This was a promise that was made to people who never really asked for it,” said Delegate Mike Pushkin, a Democrat from Kanawha County. “This is about keeping promises.”
Republican Delegate Tom Bibby of Berkeley County, who opposed the bill, said he wanted to give a raise to state police but not “to people who walked off the job.”
Earlier this week, the House tabled a separate, broad-based education bill that included raises for teachers and school service workers. Teachers unions went on strike to oppose portions of the bill, but members returned to classrooms Thursday.
Teachers said during the strike they didn’t want pay raises in the larger bill if that meant harming public education through other components such as charter schools and education savings accounts that would enable parents to pay for private schools.
“What teachers said is we don’t want this raise at the cost of our kids,” West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said at a public hearing on the stand-alone bill earlier Friday. “We want to put our kids first, because that is what we do every day.”
The latest bill would give annual salary increases of $2,120 to teachers, $2,370 to state police and $115 per month for school service workers. Those covered in the raises have pay scales set in state code. Other state employees would receive raises through the state budget process.
Last year, West Virginia teachers and service workers also received raises to end a nine-day strike.
Democratic Delegate Cody Thompson of Randolph County is a social studies and civics teacher at Elkins High School who was on strike last year and is now a first-term delegate.
Thompson said the raises will help the state attract and retain teachers.
“In my seven years I’ve not only seen teachers leave this state because they can make better money, we’ve seen tenured teachers leave,” he said. “But we’ve also seen younger people, our students, who instead of going into education are going into fields that can make a better living where they don’t have to work a second job.”