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Veteran teachers continue 30-year-old fight

CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — Frustration among teachers and service personnel continues to rise as the state Senate balks at passing the pay raise bill approved by the House of Delegates earlier this week.

On day seven of the statewide work stoppage, picket lines remain outside of Harrison County Schools as the pay raise bill is still unresolved. The current bill would provide a five percent pay raise for teachers, school service personnel and state troopers.

“I understood when I went into this profession that it wasn’t going to be really, really well paid, but it had benefits,” said Letitia Yeater, a history teacher at Bridgeport High School. “I received my benefit instead of a pay raise, so little by little I’ve had to start paying.”

But now, Yeater faces insurance premiums that will nearly triple what she currently pays, and unless the pay raise bill passes the Senate, her incremental seniority pay will greatly pale in comparison to that increase.

“By the time it’s divided and taxed, it won’t put a tank of gas in my car,” she said.

Fighting for PEIA to be funded is particularly frustrating for Yeater, as she was on the picket lines fighting for the same thing 28 years ago.

“I’ll stay out as long as it takes. I did it in 1990, and I’ll do it now,” she said. “They talk about a freeze. The only thing the republican leadership is a freeze to get through the next election. If you can freeze it, then you can fix it.”

Lora Rohrbough, a special education teacher at Nutter Fort Elementary, was also a part of the 1990 strike, and she says she’s disappointed to be back where they started.

“We were promised this PEIA in 1990, and when a benefit turns out to be a liability and something we have to work this hard for it’s frustrating,” Rohrbough said.

“You can only take what we consider an injustice for so long,” she added.

While many of those teachers of the 1990 strike do feel as though they’ve reverted 30 years, Yeater said there’s one major difference — where their support is coming from.

“In 1990, we didn’t have as much support with the superintendents,” she said. “We had more support from the governor, the attorney general and a lot of legislators, but this year not so much.”

Yeater said this struggle shows that education is not a priority to those in Charleston.

“People are in this state are more worried about the corporations,” she said. “Legislators that are backed by oil and coal are more worried about their campaign funds than the people that elected them.”

For those in the local communities, education is a priority, evidenced by the donations of food and supplies to the teachers and service personnel on the picket lines.

“You can feel the passion, you can feel the unity, and it takes a lot to move teachers in this direction because we are public servants and you know where our hearts are,” Rohrbough said. “I think that has to let people know how strongly we feel that we are just not being taken care of.”

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