The Dominion Post  

Local teachers frustrated by ongoing legislative dispute

Created on:   Tue, Mar 6, 2018   7:34 AM

Last modified:   Tue, Mar 6, 2018   7:34 AM

The Dominion Post

MORGANTOWN — As Tonia Griffin served up her protest sign to Patteson Drive traffic March 5 — “48 is not OK” — she was thinking about serving of another kind.

“I want to get back and feed my babies,” she said.

She was referring to the youngsters she sees daily at Suncrest Elementary School, where she works as a cook.

Make that, “worked.”

For now.

Griffin is among the 35,000 ed-ucators and service employees idled by West Virginia’s teacher strike, which went into its eighth day Monday.

Her sign, in turn, referred to annual salaries for educators in the Mountain State.

The average teacher salary in West Virginia is $45,622, well below the national average is $58,353, Associated Press reported earlier.

That puts teacher salaries here 48th in the nation.

Teachers walked out of their classrooms Feb. 22.

The work stoppage was likely to go longer, following a contentious Saturday night in Charleston.

Lawmakers, in town for the waning 2018 Legislative session, wrangled over a bill that would have granted teachers a 5 percent raise.

Or, 4 percent — depending upon who was doing the voting.

While the House backed the 5 percent bill, the Senate pushed for the 4 percent offering.

Teachers and other state employees are also grappling with rising premiums by the state Public Employees Insurance Agency.

Senators on Saturday night passed the 5 percent option — by mistake — and then walked back the vote.

Which is why Griffin and her Suncrest Elementary colleagues, who weren’t in Charleston, were raising their voices Monday along Patteson Drive.

“It’s just frustrating,” said Kelly Beckner, who teaches first grade at Suncrest Elementary.

“We want to be back in our classrooms,” she said.

“We’d be there today if the Senate had gone with the 5 percent.”

In the meantime, Griffin said, she’ll go with the majority. As long as her colleagues are taking to the street, she will too.