West Virginia teachers get their raise, but will offset with cuts elsewhere

Legislators aren't thinking about raising wages for teachers, whose salaries have declined over the past few years

Published March 6, 2018 2:33PM (EST)

Teachers hold a rally outside the Senate Chambers in the West Virginia Capitol, March 5, 2018. (AP/Tyler Evert)
Teachers hold a rally outside the Senate Chambers in the West Virginia Capitol, March 5, 2018. (AP/Tyler Evert)

After nine days of a statewide teacher strike, West Virginia lawmakers appear to be on the verge of abandoning their efforts to force educators to take lower salaries. But for the state, the good news comes with a caveat: in return, the state will make cuts somewhere else to pay them.

The deal would raise teachers' wages by 5 percent, according to the Associated Press. But several Republican leaders told reporters that spending for Medicaid, tourism, highways and other services will be cut by $20 million in order to offset the salary increases.

"These are deep cuts," Senate Finance chair Craig Blair, a Republican, said. "This has been the fiscally responsible thing to do, in my opinion, to get us to the point we're at today."

"I stood rock solid on the 5% Teacher pay raise and delivered. Not only this, but my staff and I made additional cuts which will give all State employees 5% as well," Republican Gov. Jim Justice, wrote on Twitter. "All the focus should have always been on fairness and getting the kids back in school."

West Virginia teachers are some of the lowest paid in the country, according to National Education Association (NEA) stats cited by CNN. While the state has a lower cost of living than most other states, the Mountain State was also one of three states where teacher pay actually decreased between 2015 and 2016, according to the NEA.

The state has the second lowest income per capita, according to USA Today, and the governor is the head of a coal company that owes the state $2.9 million in back taxes, according to the Lexington Herald Leader. The state ignored requests by teachers to raise coal tax rates to pay teachers.

By Matthew Sheffield

Matthew Sheffield is a national correspondent for The Young Turks. He is also the host of the podcast "Theory of Change." You can follow him on Twitter.

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