MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Demonstrators, some returning from the Capitol, continued their informational pickets in Monongalia County on day two of a statewide teacher work stoppage.
“We want to be in a classroom,” said Angel Conley, a West Virginia Studies teacher at South Middle School. “I can tell you that much, but we feel it’s important just as much to teach them this: you must stand up for yourself when these situations occur.”
But whether or not she’s in the classroom on Monday or still out demonstrating, she doesn’t know.
“I hope and pray we will be (in school),” Conley said. “I really do, because our kids need the instructional time.”
M-Tech’s Earl Schiffbauer said the demonstrations have become far bigger than teachers and service personnel — calling it a rallying cry for all public workers.
“The teachers will stand up and fight for everybody,” he said. “The health care providers, the state police, anybody that is tied to the state employment system, we’re standing there fighting for them.”
Conley, who spent Thursday rallying in Charleston, said there’s momentum for the work stoppage to continue into next week.
“We hear the other teachers, the thousands of others who’ve come along chanting from outside the gallery,” she said. “It was so moving just to know that there were so many people who were behind this, and I think it just only pushed me more to want to be there and want to be part of this.”
After meeting teachers from counties that began rolling walkouts earlier this month, Conley said that’s even more evident to her. She said the same problems — from the Southern Coalfields to the Northern Panhandle — are impacting teachers across the state.
“We were very grateful to them,” she said. “They started the push and did the rolling walkouts.”
On Wednesday, the House of Delegates approved attaching 20 percent of annual budgetary surplus funds to a PEIA fix fund. But Schiffbauer said a long-term, dedicated funding source is still the number one need. He did allow for some humor, in what he said was an otherwise humorless situation.
“They’ve dangled it out there,” he said. “They given us like a Klondike Bar, gave us a bite, and pulled it away.”
On Friday, thousands of school personnel again surged into the Capitol — leaving thousands of classrooms across the state empty and every county school system closed.
“It’s very difficult for all of us,” Conley said. “We all had plans. We’re in the middle of teaching things. English and Math are doing state preparations for testing. Stopping us is just as much hurting us as it is the students, because we want to be there. We want them to learn. We don’t want to disrupt their education, but we also have to stand for what we believe in.”