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Teachers plan for Thursday and Friday walkouts

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey releases a statement Wednesday stating the statewide teacher walkout is illegal, but teachers are going through with their plans. (WCHS/WVAH)

West Virginia teachers said Attorney General Patrick Morrisey's statement that the statewide walkout is illegal and is not a good example for students is not stopping them from walking out Thursday.

"We are doing this for our students," Kanawha County teacher Niki Gross said. "We want to be in our classrooms tomorrow. This isn't a day we are just taking off. This is about our kids. It is their future that is at stake right now."

Morrisey stated state law gives his office the option to end an unlawful strike, but he did not express what actions he would take to do so.

West Virginia Education President Dale Lee said it shows how fed up teachers are across the state.

"We recognize that this is an unlawful action," Lee said. "They are willing to take this stand even with an unlawful act as Morrisey is calling it. They want to ensure that the people at the Capitol hear their voice."

A pay raise was signed by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice Wednesday that works out to about $1,600 over a three-year span. Wednesday night, House Bill 4625 had a second reading on the House floor. If passed, the bill would designate 20 percent of surplus dollars to the PEIA stability fund. Wednesday night lawmakers discussed an amendment that would change the designation to 100 percent, but the motion failed.

Lee said they appreciate the effort, but they feel using surplus money is not a steadfast fix.

"We may not even have a surplus for this year. As a math teacher, 20 percent of zero is still zero. It's really not something that is going to provide a steady stream of income. It is all speculative," Lee said.

Records show West Virginia has had surplus money range from $12 million to $330 million. It is not clear what the sum will be from year to year. Last fiscal year, the surplus was $76 million. Currently, 50 percent of the surplus goes to general revenue and the other 50 percent goes to the Rainy Day Fund.

All 55 counties in West Virginia are closed Thursday due to the statewide work stoppage. House Bill 2625 regarding the surplus funds will have a third reading and a vote Thursday on the House floor.

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