Day seven of strike: 'We can't go in too early'

By  | 

HARRISON COUNTY, W.Va (WDTV) - Teachers and school service personnel in Harrison and Doddridge counties braved the cold conditions Friday, gathering at picket lines for the seventh day of the statewide educators strike.

Their eyes were focused on Charleston, specifically in the Senate, where a pay raise bill has sat idle since Thursday.

"Unless the Senate does something, I think we'll be out Monday also," Terry Moss, a teacher at Doddridge County Middle School, opined Friday morning.

The five percent pay raise bill, which passed in the House of Delegates by an overwhelming margin of 98-1 on Wednesday, was listed on the Senate Finance Committee's agenda for Friday.

The 3:30 p.m. scheduled meeting, however, was cancelled.

School employees have made it clear they're not ready to end the strike until the pay raise bill is passed and signed.

"I was really encouraged and a lot of other teachers were really encouraged," G.W. Dodd, a long-term substitute teacher at Washington Irving Middle School, said, referring to the mood after the House suspended procedural rules and passed the pay raise bill Wednesday.

"But then once it got gummed up in the Senate, it just seems like we're losing confidence fast with what's going on," Dodd continued.

The chants of frustration were amplified Thursday, after Senate President Mitch Carmichael suggested putting the money for the pay raise toward fixing health insurance costs for public employees.

School educators say they're skeptical of that proposal, worried that diverting the money to a PEIA fund for next fiscal year doesn't guarantee the money would be allocated for future years.

"If it's not in a bill, it can be scratched any time they want to," Elizabeth Sarine, a cook at Doddridge County Preschool, lamented. "And PEIA won't get the money, and it won't get fixed. It's just a diversion to get us back into school."

With the prospects of the strike entering into next week, school employees say they empathize with parents who are worried about their kids.

"I say 'I agree,'" said Danielle Leadman, a teacher at Washington Irving Middle School. "I'm ready, but we can't go in too early. We gotta make sure we see this though, and so far [the Senate] has not proven we can trust them."

5 News reached out to President Carmichael's office Friday, but we have not heard back.