CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia education officials will hold seven public forums as part of preparations for an upcoming special legislative session.
Gov. Jim Justice last week called the special session to address teacher pay raises and other education issues. He’s asked legislators to meet with teachers, parents, and other stakeholders before returning.
The first forum will be held March 18 at Cabell Midland High School, the Department of Education announced Monday. Other forums will be held at the following high schools: Capital, Woodrow Wilson, Robert C. Byrd, Wheeling Park, Berkeley Springs, and Mount View. Times and dates for those meetings will be announced later.
Each forum will include discussions in small groups on core education issues.
The department said it also will offer separate online surveys for parents and community members, students, and educators on its website later this week.
Money for teacher raises has been earmarked in a legislature-approved budget, but the funding won’t go into effect until it’s addressed in the special session.
It’s unclear exactly when the legislature would return, but Republican leadership is signaling they might reconvene in late spring or early summer, which union leaders said might be a strategy to negate the impact of a potential third strike since February 2018.
West Virginia teachers went on a two-day strike last month over a complex education bill that tied their 5 percent pay raise to the formation of the state’s first charter schools and education savings accounts that would help parents pay for schools.
Schools in all but one of the state’s 55 counties closed as educators protested and packed the state Capitol, arguing that the bill was retaliation for last year’s nine-day strike over pay raises and health insurance.
The proposal eventually failed. But union leaders and lawmakers have recently expressed fears that the special session offers a second opportunity at the measures that caused the strike.
This year, teachers also have gone on strike in Los Angeles , Denver and Oakland, California . School districts in Kentucky have canceled classes after teachers coordinated a “sick out” to protest proposed legislation at the state Capitol.
W.Va. Department of Education: