CHARLESTON, W.Va. — More than 950 substitute teachers, school service workers and other non-salary school employees in West Virginia are getting some financial help following the statewide teacher strike.
Organizers with the West Virginia Teacher Strike Fund have raised more than $330,000 through a community-based GoFundMe page.
Tammy Austin, substitute custodian for Putnam County Schools, will receive some of that money.
She said she worried about how to pay her bills during the nine-day strike. Unlike full-time teachers who got paid during the strike, employees like Austin did not.
“When you’re a substitute, you don’t get paid unless you actually work,” she said. “It was actually kind of scary. You wonder from day to day when they were going to get back to work.”
Austin said the money will be put toward her electric bills, utility bills and car payments.
“I’m the only income in the household, so the nine days were off kind of put me in a financial situation,” she said.
Donations came pouring in from across the state and around the world after Day 2 of the strike.
“Power to the teachers and staff, greetings from Canada give em hell,” wrote a donor named Brandon from Ontario.
Philip in Bridgeport donated “In memory of Becky Andrick, retired Harrison County teacher for 31 years.”
Garrett in Portland wrote, “You are my heroes! Stick together! We have your backs.”
“Solidarity from Australia!”, said a donor named Jake.
Savanna Lyons, one of the Strike Fund organizers, said she believes a lot of people donated because they were inspired by what teachers were doing.
“I’m excited to see the level of attention that were were getting nationally as well as in the state that a lot of people really wanted to support teachers and really saw the value in helping with what we were doing,” she said.
Not only were school employees losing out on pay, but Lyons said a lot of them came to the Capitol to continue their fight for better pay and benefits.
“Some people were commuting hundreds of miles back and forth between their home counties and the Capitol, buying materials, buying food for other teachers and so we supported those activities as well,” she said.
Lyons said it was important to support the strike and the teachers’ wallets.
“We really wanted to support the people who were losing income during this process so that they could feel comfortable about supporting the strike,” she said.
Educators received checks anywhere from $40 to $1,000 over the last week depending on their needs.