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Friday December 6th, 2019 8:36AM

West Virginia teachers' walkout awaits legislative action

By The Associated Press

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia teachers descended on the state Capitol in droves on the second day of their strike Wednesday to watch whether lawmakers circle back to an education bill that had been tabled a day before.

Union members waited out a deadline for the House of Delegates to use a technical maneuver to potentially reconsider a decision Tuesday that effectively killed the complex legislation.

According to legislative rules, a lawmaker who voted to table the bill had until Wednesday to ask to have the vote reconsidered. The House made no such action during its morning session and was set to meet again Wednesday night.

Portions of the bill also could still be offered through amendments to other legislation in the final two weeks of the session.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said his members were "still anxious" but "very optimistic" that the motion which doomed the bill would not be re-examined.

"I think the bill will be dead as soon as they adjourn," Lee said. However, "we have to be here."

Schools in 54 of the state's 55 counties were closed Wednesday. The lone holdout again was Putnam County.

Unions for teachers and school service workers went on strike Tuesday over the legislation that they said lacked their input and was retaliation for a nine-day walkout last year. That strike launched the national "Red4Ed" movement, which included strikes in Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Washington state, and more recently, Los Angeles and Denver.

The unions and teachers opposed provisions in the legislation that, among other things, would have created the state's first charter schools and allow education savings accounts for parents to pay for private school. Proponents said the moves would have given parents more school choices

The unions have trust issues with lawmakers, especially becoming wary of leaders in the Senate after actions during the 2018 strike and again this month when the chamber rushed to act on the bill.

Like the House, the Senate, reversing course from its original bill, removed a clause that would invalidate the entire legislation if any part is struck down, and took out language requiring teachers sign off annually on union dues and requiring teacher pay to be withheld during a strike.

"We want to be in the classroom," said Charleston elementary school teacher Danielle Loehr. "But we need to be here and paying attention. It's really scary, but that's politics."

Earlier Wednesday a House committee endorsed a pay increase for teachers, school service workers and state police. The teacher pay raise was part of the original legislation that the House tabled. The House plans a public hearing on the raises Friday. It would give annual salary increases of $2,120 to teachers, $2,370 to state police and $115 per month for school service workers.

Last year state teachers received an average 5 percent raise to end the nine-day strike.

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