CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- With the possibility of a statewide teacher strike looming in West Virginia, the battle over benefits continues. On Monday night, members of the PEIA Finance Board held the first of three public hearings scheduled across the state this week, allowing teachers and other state employees to voice their concerns about the future of their insurance plans.
As a school guidance counselor in West Virginia, Chelena McCoy says skyrocketing insurance premiums are the reason she's begging her son to start his own teaching career elsewhere.
"I will not encourage him to come to West Virginia and be an educator," she told the board.
She was one of dozens of state employees who made their concerns heard Monday.
"Teachers that qualify for SNAP -- qualify for assistance and you wanna raise their premium," said Carrena Rouse, AFT Boone County President.
Board members say the only plan on the table right now is the one recently proposed by Governor Jim Justice - that - if passed by lawmakers- would freeze PEIA rates, keeping them the same for 17 months while a permanent solution is discussed.
"We can't wait seventeen months for a long-term fix. We're asking you to join us to say to the legislature, we need a dedicated funding stream," said Christine Campbell, AFT-West Virginia President.
Teachers and their union representatives suggested injecting revenue from new taxes in PEIA, among other solutions. But PEIA Director Ted Cheatham says with this legislative session more than halfway over, it's too late in the game to make major changes this year.