CHARLESTON, W.Va. — House Speaker Tim Armstead (R-Kanawha, 40) sees no need for the planned teacher and school service worker walkouts this Thursday and Friday across West Virginia.
“We have taken significant steps to address the concerns they’ve brought to us. We’ve listened to them,” Armstead said on Tuesday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”
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The concerns have involved pay, benefits and other educational investment and prioritization issues.
On the show, Armstead cited the freeze to benefits for 17 months that members of the Public Employees Insurance Agency were expected to approve during a Tuesday afternoon meeting.
The House has already approved a bill that would use $29 million from the Rainy Day Fund to cover the costs of the freeze.
As for long-term funding solutions for PEIA, the House Finance Committee originated a bill Monday allocating 20 percent of any state surpluses at the end of the fiscal year to the PEIA Financial Stability Fund through 2027 at least.
The Senate’s version of the sports betting legalization bill also includes funding for PEIA.
“Is it going to please everyone? Of course not. But I think that they need to take a very careful look at what we’ve been doing here, particularly over the last week, and I think we have addressed the core of their concerns,” Armstead said.
Additionally, the Senate has amended a bill dealing with pensions for union leaders to make it apply to future presidents of the West Virginia Education Association and American Federation of Teachers West Virginia, not current leaders Dale Lee and Christine Campbell.
At times throughout negotiations, it’s been difficult to pin down what exactly the teacher unions want, in Armstead’s view.
“We’ve had a number of discussions and they will say to us what isn’t adequate, but they won’t say what they believe is,” he said.
Armstead predicted the state worker pay raise bill would also be addressed by Tuesday night.
“We’ve acted and we believe that the teachers should not go out on strike,” he said.