Letter From Lily

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Wow. They did it.

Educators, school support staff, and service personnel stood together and achieved an impressive victory for West Virginia’s students and communities. They united across all 55 counties and achieved real changes that will help attract and retain the best teachers for the state. This includes a 5 percent pay raise that will go not only to educators and school service personnel but also to state troopers and ALL public employees.

NEA Vice President Becky Pringle and I were in Charleston several times during the nine-day strike. We were inspired by the passion, dedication, and concern of the educators, parents, and students who showed up at the State Capitol. They met with legislators. They locked arms. They chanted. They sang. They stood strong. And they won.

They are an inspiration to educators across the country, and this victory is a reminder of what we can achieve when we raise our collective voice.

I am so proud of West Virginia educators and the West Virginia Education Association. They stood united and made their voices heard to demand recognition of their professionalism and dignity because they know attracting and retaining the most caring and competent educators for West Virginia students is essential to their state’s success.

Watch this video of Dale Lee, WVEA president, talking moments after lawmakers reached a deal. You can feel the energy and excitement in the Capitol building and hear why this victory means so much to West Virginia students:

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These wins are impressive but we aren’t done yet. West Virginia still needs to make additional changes to ensure they can recruit the best educators in the future, including stabilizing health insurance costs. In Oklahoma, where teacher pay is the second lowest in the country, a proposal to give teachers a modest raise for the first time in 10 years failed in the legislature last week. And, a handful of greedy CEOs and special interests are trying to limit educators’ freedom to join strong unions with a court case, Janus v AFSCME, which the U.S. Supreme Court will decide this spring.

For now though, we will celebrate and remind ourselves why we fight so hard to make great public schools for our students. As West Virginia Governor Jim Justice said, “At the end of the day, I think right won out. Not that the unions won or the Legislature won or I won. It’s the idea and the premise that we ought to invest in education and let education be an economic driver for us.”

In solidarity,

Lily Eskelsen García
National Education Association