And now it's back to lesson plans, hooray!

The teacher strike that shut down all the public schools in West Virginia is over; Gov. Jim Justice agreed Tuesday to give teachers a five percent raise this year, which may drag the state's teacher pay a little bit higher than 48th in the nation. Schools will reopen tomorrow after what's being called a "cooling off" day today. In addition to the raise for teachers, Justice also announced a three percent raise for all state employees, who we hope will send a nice thank you card to the teachers' union.


Also, how's this for terrific and maybe a tiny bit weepy, shut up, fuck you, YOU'RE CRYING. Before going out on strike, teachers and staff packed up enough home lunches to distribute to kids who wouldn't be able to get fed at school. At the elementary school in Beckley, teachers showed up to serve lunch outside the school:

After the strike went into a third day, strikers helped arrange for an informal distribution network to get food to families; some showed up at kids' homes with boxes of food.

Image via Facebook

With the strike resolved, the lunchrooms can now give EVERYBODY eat.

Is there a "Hooray, but..."? Of course! For one thing, the state legislature will have to pass the raise Justice called for, and as we noted yesterday, West Virginia has cut business taxes so much that there's not a lot of extra revenue for some reason. And the other big issue behind the strike still hasn't been fixed: problems with the state's health insurance program for public employees will be handed to a task force to work out. This didn't exactly go over great with teachers, who had complained the state wasn't serious about fixing the Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA). Before the strike, the state placed a 17-month freeze on PEIA premium rates, and teachers are concerned that sending the issue off to a commission to work is mostly a delaying tactic.

Teachers rallying outside the state Capitol last night turned fairly quickly from cheering the pay raise agreement to booing the delay on PEIA, then began chanting "Back to the table!" and "Fix it now!"

Do click the video, if only to bask in the awesomeness of some unseen person blowing a tuba to punctuate the chants.

Debbie Helvey, a sixth-grade science teacher from East Bank, told CNN she has been a wreck during the strike. She was still nervous Tuesday, worried the negotiation win would be fleeting.

"I'm just afraid that it's going to be tabled and put on the back burner, and we're going to be asked to do this again," she said.

CNN reports Justice said he was at least partly moved to pay teachers more while he talked to a sixth-grader named Gideon Titus-Glover, who urged him to reconsider his stance on teacher pay:

Justice said Gideon was asking questions about tourism and the governor tried to explain about returns on investments in marketing.

Turning one dollar into eight is a good investment, the governor told Gideon.

"Wouldn't it be an investment to invest in smart teachers that would make me smart and then I can in turn, turn around and do smart, good things for our state?" the student replied.

The governor said Gideon was right and he was approaching the strike wrong.

"I was looking at it as what the prudent thing was to do and not as investment." he said Tuesday.

While that's a really sweet story that reflects well on one smart kiddo, let's also take a moment from saying "awww, so sweet" to point out that Justice's adorable story also makes a nice political narrative, giving credit to a kid (KIDS GOOD) instead of to the pressure from striking teachers (UNIONS BAD). It also might help offset the positive publicity for those teachers putting food on their students' families. Why, yes, we did major in cynicism.

In any case, the state's 250,000 public school students will be going back to classes tomorrow, and the union leaders promise they'll be vigilant in following up on PEIA reform. Christine Campbell, with the West Virginia branch of the American Federation of Teachers, said her group would hold Justice to his word, while the president of the West Virginia Education Association, Dale Lee, made it clear the pay raise will have to pass and the insurance program must be fixed permanently to keep teachers in the classroom.

And for now, it's time for teachers to consider teaching the kids the melody to "Union Maid":

If you're a West Virginian, and particularly the Morgantown kind, please plan for a visit from your Wonkette, we are thinking "March 26." In the meantime, get back to singing!

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[NBC News / CNN / NYT / CNN]

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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