CHARLESTON, W.Va. — All of the money raised from the West Virginia Teacher Strike Fund has been distributed.
More than 950 teachers and school service workers received part of the $332,970 raised from a GoFundMe Page, according to Savanna Lyons with the Teacher Strike Fund.
Organizers said they eventually had to shut down the request site when it became clear they would not be able to fund every request. There were 978 requests submitted.
Erin Cooper, an English teacher at Sissonville High School, is one of the recipients. She received $500.
Cooper is pregnant. She said she didn’t plan on taking time off before having her baby.
“We didn’t plan on doing a strike during my pregnancy. I don’t have enough sick days at the end of the year. When they tack those nine days on, that left me with nine unpaid days,” she told MetroNews.
More than 7,100 people from around the world donated to the fund.
The statewide strike lasted nine days. Teachers and school service personnel rallied every day at the state Capitol in Charleston to demand better pay and benefits. It sparked other states like Kentucky and Oklahoma to stage their own education worker protests in the following weeks.
Cooper said she believes donors were inspired by West Virginia teachers.
“People see what West Virginia teachers did for the whole country. I feel like we started something. It was like a wildfire and it spread across the country, so I’m really proud that we were a part of that and we were the one that ignited the fire,” she said.
The strike ended on Mar. 6 after Governor Jim Justice approved a five percent pay increase for state workers including teachers. The governor also promised to find a permanent funding fix for the state Public Employees Insurance Agency.
Most applicants requested funds for various reasons including lost pay, organizing costs such as signs, travel and meals, electric or hospital bills and child care costs.
Tammy Austin, a substitute custodian for Putnam County Schools, doesn’t receive a salary. If she doesn’t work, she doesn’t get paid.
“It a little rough and it was scary wondering how long it was going to be before they got back to work,” she said.
Austin also received $500 in funds. She said the money was put toward her electric bills.
“It meant a lot. I mean, my electric would’ve probably been turned off if I didn’t receive it, so it was greatly appreciated,” she said.
Educators received checks anywhere from $40 to $1,000 depending on their needs.