Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.

Teaching Profession

A West Virginia Bill Might Ban Teacher Strikes. How Much Would That Matter?

By Andrew Ujifusa — June 03, 2019 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

More than a year after West Virginia’s educators helped touch off a wave of nationwide teacher strikes, there’s movement afoot to ban such strikes in the state altogether.

The proposal to prohibit such labor actions added a heavy dose of controversy to an already-contentious bill to allow charter schools to open in the Mountain State. Republican lawmakers who control the legislature have been pushing to allow charter schools in the state—the state Senate passed the Student Success Act on Monday during a special legislative session that includes a provision permitting charters. Legislators are using the state’s relatively poor rankings on educational measures like SAT scores as justification for allowing the publicly financed and independently run schools to begin operating.

Right now, the six other states that don’t permit charters are Kentucky, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont. This is not the first time West Virginia lawmakers have pushed to allow charters.

Late last week, GOP Rep. Charles Trump threw some additional fuel on the flames by successfully sponsoring an amendment to the charter legislation that would allow county school boards to fire teachers who strike.

“This is designed to help the children by making sure they will be in school when they should be in school,” Trump said.

Teachers’ union in the state have opposed the legislation vigorously for how it treats charters as well as strikes, and some educators have shown up to protest the proposals at the state Capitol. Fred Albert, the president of the American Federation of Teachers’ West Virginia chapter, called Trump’s amendment clear retribution for the 2018 strikes. Meanwhile, Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican, told reporters Sunday he’d prefer that the sweeping legislation be broken up into more-digestible pieces.

What else is in the bill? Perhaps ironically, a teacher pay raise. The bill would also provide additional funding for student mental-health services. Democrats, however, say Republicans are ignoring what led teachers in the state to launch a two-day strike in February.

“This is the same script, the same format that was forced down our throats in January of this year,” said Sen. Paul Hardesty, a Democrat.

School choice is all the rage in the West Virginia Senate, which on Monday also passed separate legislation to create education savings accounts. The ESAs are similar to tuition vouchers, except that parents could draw down these publicly funded accounts for a variety of educational services. (More on that in a moment.)

So what practical impact would a new teacher-strike ban have? Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, a union watchdog site, wrote Monday that “all sides” agree teacher strikes are already illegal in the state, but that this prohibition didn’t stop educators there from striking last year or this year. It’s unclear whether local officials would actually use the new powers the bill could grant, Antonucci argued.

Last year, PolitiFact quoted legal experts in West Virginia who said that while a teacher who strikes does not commit a crime, a teacher does not have the right per se to strike; the fact-checking outfit rated a claim that the strike was “unlawful” as true.

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos helped bring national attention to the roiling West Virginia education debate by providing a show of support for the charter school bill last week, as well as separate legislation

DeVos might be trying to replicate what happened in Tennessee earlier this year. In April, she visisted the Volunteer State to promote school choice and publicly supported a bill to create ESAs. That legislation ultimately made its way to Gov. Bill Lee, a Republican, who signed it into law last month, although it attracted a significant amount of controversy along the way.

Photo: Jennifer Hanner, a teacher from Harts, W.Va., center, holds a sign last year during a protest. (John Raby/AP)

Follow us on Twitter @PoliticsK12. And follow the Politics K-12 reporters @EvieBlad @Daarel and @AndrewUjifusa.

Related Tags:

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Teaching Profession Opinion ‘A Culture of Care’: How Schools Can Alleviate Educator Stress This Year
It takes more than deep breathing to alleviate the stress teachers feel. Here's how to get to the root cause.
Sean Slade & Alyssa Gallagher
6 min read
shutterstock 740616958 resized
Teaching Profession Reported Essay Students Aren’t the Only Ones Grieving
Faced with so many losses stemming from the pandemic, what can be done to help teachers manage their own grief?
4 min read
Conceptual Illustration
Pep Montserrat for Education Week
Teaching Profession We Feel Your Grief: Remembering the 1,000 Plus Educators Who've Died of COVID-19
The heartbreaking tally of lives lost to the coronavirus continues to rise and take a steep toll on school communities.
3 min read
090321 1000 Educators Lost BS
Education Week
Teaching Profession Letter to the Editor Educators Have a Responsibility to Support the Common Good
A science teacher responds to another science teacher's hesitation to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
1 min read