CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The meeting chamber of the Kanawha County Board of Education has a seating capacity of 75 people. That number includes board members, county employees, reporters covering the meeting and members of the public in attendance.
That number was surpassed at the board’s meeting Thursday night, as more than 80 teachers and service personnel attended the meeting to support a resolution calling for the Legislature to act on pay raises and insurance provided by the state Public Employee Insurance Agency.
The five-member board unanimously passed the resolution, which asks lawmakers to improve insurance coverage and increase proposed pay raises for employees.
Board president Jim Crawford said as a former teacher, he understands the frustration toward the Legislature’s lack of action in recent years.
“Seems like everytime they give them a pay raise, they raise the PEIA premiums. They actually gain nothing,” he said. “It’s time for the people of West Virginia to step up to the plate and take care of our teachers.”
Krista Trabert, a Granville Elementary School teacher, said in her 27-year career, the last decade has been difficult because raises do not cover costs rising insurance costs.
“We’ve waited and waited and waited and nothing seems to happen,” she said. “There doesn’t seem to be any long-term plan and there needs to be long-term funding to take care of this issue. There are too many state employees that are in PEIA to be kicking the can down the road.”
Crawford did not say if he believed a work stoppage would happen but stated the board will stand by county education staff.
“Trust me, we’re not going to take any punitive action against anybody as long as they do it peacefully,” he said.
Schools in seven counties — Brooke, Cabell, Clay, Lincoln, Mason, Wayne and Wetzel — will be closed Friday because of an employee work stoppage. Teachers and school service personnel are planning to hold a rally at the state Capitol on Saturday.