MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Even as teachers from select counties prepare to demonstrate in Charleston during a one-day walkout, the use of the dreaded ‘s’ word remains unpopular among their ranks.
“That’s not what we want,” Heather Deluca-Nestor, a teacher at South Middle School said Wednesday. “We just want (Charleston) to listen because strikes divide people. They divide counties. They divide schools.”
Many don’t want to talk about a strike — or any type of work stoppage. But, she said, it’s something they can’t take off the table.
“We’re not just fighting for pay,” Deluca-Nestor said. “We’re not just fighting for PEIA and all public employees. We’re fighting for the respect, and we are fighting for a priority.”
A science teacher in Morgantown, Deluca-Nestor said legislators in Charleston — and some closer to home — have not prioritized teachers or public employees in any meaningful way.
“We’re 48th paid in the United States,” Deluca-Nestor said. “I think that speaks to itself.”
At age 12 in 1990, Deluca-Nestor said she remembers the 1990 strike very well — particularly because her father was on the picket lines in Tucker County. It’s a last resort, she added — something that can be avoided by the right actions in Charleston.
“We need them to listen and hear us and what we’re saying. We can’t keep taking money away from public education and doing more with less. I mean that’s common sense.”
She said the timing couldn’t be worse — claiming that public educators are more vital than ever.
“We have a drug epidemic going on,” Deluca-Nestor said. “And what are we doing? We’re taking away from public education where we could be educating people and building that infrastructure again.”
The 17-year teaching veteran said she wouldn’t teach if she didn’t have a passion for education, children, and learning as a whole. But, she said, Charleston needs to hear the rumble coming from teachers throughout the state.
“We just want what’s best for the kids. We want what’s best for public employees, and the Legislature needs to step up and stop passing the buck.”
Educators in Monongalia County are planning a demonstration before Saturday’s WVU men’s basketball game against Kansas State at the WVU Coliseum. Other educators and public employees are also planning demonstrations in Preston County next week and a town hall in Fairmont the following weekend.