LEWISBURG, W.Va. — A warm Friday brought dozens of teachers, school service personnel and parents to the corner of Washington and Jefferson Streets in Lewisburg.
The group began to assemble at around 7 in the morning on the second day of the statewide teacher walkout. High school teacher Liz Daigle said she was there because she feels educators are an important part of West Virginia’s future.
“I really believe that the future of West Virginia is the education system. It breaks my heart to hear people say that their students want to be teachers and parents are saying don’t be a teacher. What is the future of West Virginia if we don’t build our education system?”
Many in attendance held signs and wore shirts reading “#55United” and “#55Strong”, but Daigle says the walkout is about more than advocating just for teachers.
“We teachers are out here but we’re the voice for all of the service personnel across the state. Those families also rely on PEIA for their families. We are West Virginia, we are families here. Anything that goes into our pocket goes right back into West Virginia.”
Tables were set up on a sidewalk full of pizza and soft drinks. The plan was to keep the rally going the entire day, just like they accomplished Thursday.
Greenbrier County teacher Jim Allder had spent several hours at the rally. He feels the public has been supportive, but there are some misconceptions about the purpose of the walkout.
“None of us got into this to make a lot of money and we knew that. We knew we weren’t going to become weathly being teachers. But we expected to be able to pay the bills and make it day by day. It’s gotten harder and harder to do that and now with threats to PEIA, insurance coverage and minimal increases to make up for it, we’re scared.”
The House of Delegates passed bill HB 4625 Thursday. It would allow 20 percent of future state budget surplus to go directly to PEIA. That allocation would run for 10 years.
“We’re not ungrateful, we appreciate every little bit that helps,” said Allder. “But as of right now, the fixes for PEIA are still temporary and if we don’t have a permanent, defined funding source for PEIA that can be counted on year after year we’re just gonna be back in the same position again.”
Another rally in the Greenbrier Valley was taking place in Rainelle Thursday and Friday.