West Virginia Teachers Strike Ending After Governor Pledges Higher Salary

Nearly 20,000 West Virginia teachers will return to their classrooms on Thursday after the state's governor announced a bump to teachers' salaries Tuesday.

Teachers will now receive a five percent pay raise this year, Governor Jim Justice said. All other state employees will see a three percent increase.

My commitment to education has been consistent from day one. We're giving all teachers a 5% raise and all other State employees 3% this year.

— Governor Jim Justice (@WVGovernor) February 27, 2018

The numbers still have to be passed by the legislature, according to CNN.

The concession follows a four-day strike that spanned the state's 55 counties and 680 public schools and left more than a quarter of a million students out of school.

The strike—the largest in state history — began after Justice signed a bill last Wednesday mandating a two percent teacher salary raise starting in July, with an additional one percent raise slated for 2020 and 2021.

The state's teachers, who earn about $45,000 a year on average, said it wasn't enough, and also demanded a fix to health care. Their average salary ranked 48th in the nation in 2016, according to the National Education Association.

Justice on Monday had initially purported that teachers would only be able to mitigate their low salaries by advocating for a tax on natural gas collection.

Schools are "called off on Wednesday for a cooling off period" but will resume Thursday, the West Virginia Education Association wrote in a Facebook post.

Educators striking outside the state capitol Tuesday had mixed reactions to the news. They cheered the raise but also booed no immediate change to insurance, chanting "Back to the table!" and "Fix it now!" according to CNN.

The last statewide raise for West Virginia's teachers was in 2014, when then-Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed into law $1,000 pay raises to public school teachers and two percent raises to school service personnel.

A 1990 teacher strike that spanned eight school days similarly ended in concessions, including a $5,000 pay raise for teachers over three years.