Public schools in West Virginia did not open as expected on Thursday, after teachers rejected an offer by Republican Governor Jim Justice they say comes nowhere near meeting their demands. Justice offered the promise of a pay raise to teachers, but a permanent fix to the state’s health coverage for public employees was not included.
The Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) is currently being funded by the state’s “rainy day” fund with planned premium increases and benefit cuts frozen until 2019, but teachers are demanding a permanent fix to ensure that out-of-pocket costs don’t rise.
Teachers returned to the state capitol on Wednesday evening with many chanting, “A freeze is not a fix!” and “We got sold out!”
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“PEIA is the reason this started, and all they’ve given us so far is five percent pay raise that hasn’t been passed, so in our book nothing has been fixed, it’s not in stone,” Brandon Wolford, president of Mingo County’s WVEA branch, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail late Wednesday.
The pay raise passed in the state House on Wednesday, but state Senate president Mitch Carmichael has been dismissive of the proposal, telling the MetroNews on Tuesday that “It would be completely frivolous and ridiculous to embrace this proposal this far down the [legislative] session.”
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