Hours into their strike Tuesday, educators in West Virginia secured a win when the state legislature killed a controversial bill that would have provided charter and private school vouchers to their state.
The latest direct action from West Virginia teachers comes one year after they took to the picket lines for nine days and successfully secured higher wages, an act that inspired teachers from Oklahoma and Arizona to follow suit.
“We want to say the House heard our voice, and they took our voice, the voice of West Virginians over the outsiders who came here and tried to ram education savings accounts and charter schools and all of the things we didn’t want down our throats,” Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia said at a press conference Tuesday shortly after the bill was tabled indefinitely.
VICTORY IN WEST VIRGINIA: Under pressure from today's strike, the Republican-led House just now voted 53-45 to kill the pro-privatization bill. Strikes work — and West Virginian educators have again made history. pic.twitter.com/6fXriwAeCT
— Eric Blanc (@_ericblanc) February 19, 2019
According to the the Charleston Gazette Mail, the education bill would have provided a five percent raise for teachers as well as increased funding for public schools. However, the measure also included what teachers regarded as a poison pill, in that it would have also paved the way for charter schools, of which West Virginia currently has none. The bill would have also funneled public funds into a voucher system, called educational savings accounts, that families could use for private and online schools. Some teachers viewed a bill which tied pay raises to school privatization incentives as form of retaliation for their very public strike last year.
The bill is not totally dead, however, as there still exists a parliamentary procedure that would force the House of Delegates to reconsider the bill. Because of this, union leaders have decided to extend their strike into Wednesday to ensure that the bill stays tabled indefinitely.
The threat of charter school expansion also inspired approximately 30,000 teachers in Los Angeles to go on strike earlier this year. In addition to smaller class sizes and more staff support, LA teachers voiced their concerns about the growing number of charter schools and how it impacted school district funding.
Nearly 400 miles to the north, in Oakland, teachers are preparing to strike on Thursday after 18 tense months of negotiations with the school district. Teachers will be striking for pay raises, smaller class sizes, and more counselors and nurses.