West Virginia's House has OK'd a 5% pay raise negotiated by the governor to end a walkout by the state's teachers, but all the state's public schools plan to stay closed Thursday. Gov. Jim Justice announced the deal Tuesday evening after meeting with union leaders for teachers in all the counties. They'd been expected to return to work Thursday after striking a week earlier, but some strikers said they weren't satisfied. "We believe the best course of action at this time is to return to school," West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee said at a news conference. "However we realize that not everyone will." CNN explains a "major sticking point": health insurance. Teachers are demanding a fix to the Public Employees Insurance Agency, which is said to be poorly funded and has resulted in insurances premiums considered too high.
The deal would set up a task force to tackle that problem, but the future nature of that solution has left some unsatisfied. As for the deal itself, House approval of Justice's proposed raise came on a 98-1 vote Wednesday evening. The Senate, which had adjourned earlier, was expected to consider it Thursday. Its leader, President Mitch Carmichael, expressed skepticism about the governor's suddenly higher projected tax increases that would pay for the pay boosts but said that chamber would review it. All 100 seats in the House are up for election this year, along with half the 34 seats in the Senate. Teachers, who walked off the job last Thursday, have promised to pay close attention to each lawmaker's actions and vote accordingly, reports the AP.
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