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Lawmakers urge against walkout by teachers

March 12, 2007|by DAVE McMILLION

CHARLES TOWN, W.VA. - Two Eastern Panhandle lawmakers on Sunday took a grim view of a possible teacher walkout this week to protest a 3.5 percent pay raise given to teachers by the West Virginia Legislature, and one of the lawmakers predicts a walkout could backfire on teachers.

Del. Walter Duke, R-Berkeley, said he thinks teachers should hold off on any walkout until officials are able to determine how various school funding proposals that the Legislature approved in its recent session could help local school systems deal with issues like salary increases.

"I think they are way wrong in this. I think they need to wait until the dust settles," Duke said.

The president of the Berkeley County Education Association, which represents teachers in Berkeley County, bristled at any requests for teachers to slow down in their plans for a walkout.

Jim Keller said teachers have been holding off on taking extreme actions like a walkout and "it's gotten us nothing. The more we hold off, they more they stonewall us," Keller said.

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Keller said Berkeley County teachers were meeting Sunday night to decide whether to walk out Wednesday, but he said any public announcement about a possible walkout in Berkeley County would occur later.

Charlie DeLauder, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said teachers are frustrated over the pay-raise offers by the Legislature and added that WVEA members plan to stage a one-day walkout Wednesday to protest the teacher pay raise.

DeLauder said it is unclear how many of the WVEA's 17,000 members will participate in Wednesday's walkout.

The union is allowing the individual chapters to decide whether to miss class that day.

Duke said the Legislature, which ended its 60-day session Saturday night, made progress in creating new revenue sources for school systems. The new revenue means school systems can have more flexibility with money to possibly raise teacher salaries more than what the Legislature has proposed, Duke said.

In the recent session, lawmakers agreed to allow counties to keep more of the tax revenue they generate for schools, which could generate up to $1.5 million for Berkeley County Schools and $700,000 for Jefferson County Schools.

In addition to the 3.5 percent pay raise for teachers approved last week by the Legislature, the instructors must remember that they are also entering the third year of a four-year pay-raise package that was approved previously by the Legislature, Duke said.

Sen. John Yoder, R-Jefferson, said he thinks a walkout could leave a sour taste in the mouths of lawmakers.

Eastern Panhandle teachers have complained that their salaries are much lower than salaries being offered in neighboring states, but Yoder said teaching jobs are considered some of the best-paying jobs in other parts of the state.

"I think a lot of people think teachers are getting greedy," Yoder said.

Yoder said he believes the best way to deal with teacher pay inequities locally is locality pay, but Yoder said the WVEA has been opposed to it.

Locality pay is higher pay for only local teachers to keep their pay competitive with teacher salaries in nearby states.

Officials with the Jefferson County Education Association could not be reached for comment Sunday night.




On the Web



Gov. Joe Manchin's office has posted three new charts on its Web site, outlining the 3.5 percent pay raise approved this week in the state House and Senate and the amount of new dollars dedicated to teacher salaries by Manchin and the Legislature since Manchin took office in January 2005.

The Web site is www.wvgov.org.

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