MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — Teachers across the Eastern Panhandle were out of the classroom Monday, but making their presence known in front of their schools.

At Musselman High School, dozens of teachers and school service personnel planned to spend the time they would normally be on shift out by the road, drawing attention to their concerns over pay and benefits.

Among them was math teacher Craig Whitmore, who said PEIA premium increases are now tied to income. He said teachers who take on second jobs to make ends meet are unduly affected:

“I can’t see how something someone does as a second job would affect what they do here as a teacher,” he said. “Why would that increase your premiums because you have to work a second job to be able to survive?”

English Teacher Teresa Campbell said teachers in the Mountain State have been told their benefits package offset a lower-than-average salary, but recently, some teachers have had some surprise out-of-pocket expenses for preventative tests, some in the neighborhood of three to eight hundred dollars:

“They’re paying big time money for preventative care measures, and that’s just not right. We are public servants. We don’t get a lot of pay. We do great things for our county, for our state, for our kids and their families. I think we deserve our preventative care.”

PEIA benefits have been frozen at current levels for the next year as the Legislature seeks to find a steady revenue stream to shore up the benefits program.

Gov. Jim Justice signed into law last week a bill that would allow for a two percent across the board pay raise for teachers based on the average West Virginia salary, with one percent pay increases for two subsequent years.

West Virginia Education Association President Dale Lee has said the union would like to see a 5 percent pay increase up front.

The work stoppage will continue Tuesday.

Story by Marsha Kavalek

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