UPDATE: West Virginia schools chief expects strike's end
CHARLESTON, WV (AP) -
West Virginia Schools Superintendent Steve Paine says he expects a statewide teachers' strike will end.
Paine issued a statement Wednesday afternoon that "my expectation is that all public schools in West Virginia will be in session on Thursday."
Paine's statement contrasts that of union representatives in at least two counties who say they're staying out Thursday. West Virginia Education Association representatives for Gilmer and Mingo counties expressed teacher frustration over pay raise proposals and health insurance benefits as reasons they wouldn't return to classes.
On Wednesday afternoon, the state Department of Education website listed school closings Thursday in Gilmer and Mingo counties. The website later was taken down.
State Department of Education spokeswoman Alyssa Keedy didn't immediately return a request for comment.
Union leaders say teachers in at least two West Virginia counties are refusing to return to school Thursday despite an announcement by the governor for a proposed higher pay boost intended to curtail a statewide walkout.
Representatives for the West Virginia Education Association in Gilmer and Mingo counties tell The Associated Press that teachers will remain out of the classrooms Thursday.
Justice is offering teachers and school service personnel a revised 5 percent pay raise in the first year.
Teachers also want a permanent solution to rising costs in their insurance plan.
WVEA representative Allen Stump, whose seven-county region includes Mingo, says the insurance issue "seems to be the driving force in Mingo County."
Gilmer County WVEA representative Tiny Foster says teachers are waiting for the pay raise bill's introduction in the Legislature and that they "haven't seen anything more than just the governor's promise."
Gov. Jim Justice's proposed 5 percent pay raise to end the walkout by West Virginia teachers is getting a mixed reception in the Legislature where approval is needed.
Justice's Tuesday evening announcement followed his meeting with union leaders for teachers in all 55 counties.
They plan to return to work Thursday after striking a week earlier over low pay and rising health insurance costs.
Republican House Speaker Tim Armstead says it appears Justice's new 2019 revenue estimates "should allow us to afford larger pay raises."
But Republican Senate President Mitch Carmichael says he's "skeptical" and the Senate is "fiscally conservative."
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