Public schools in 54 out of 55 counties in West Virginia shut down today, in anticipation of a statewide strike by teachers. The reason? Legislation that would, among other things, create a voucher system that could be used by special-needs children to pay for private school and allow for as many as seven charter schools. Charters are publicly funded schools that operate with more autonomy (and less funding per pupil) than traditional public schools. West Virginia doesn't currently allow charters.
The pending legislation, whose final form hasn't been hammered out, would also give teachers a 5 percent pay raise. In 2018, West Virginia teachers struck for higher pay, eventually getting a 5 percent salary hike and inspiring other walk-outs around the country. From NPR:
Details of the controversial bill have changed—sometimes dramatically—as it bounces between the two legislative chambers. At one point the Senate version of the bill would have allowed an unlimited number of charter schools. The House bill subsequently limited the number of charter schools to two and killed the voucher program; the Senate's amended version permitted seven charter schools and reinstated vouchers for up to 1,000 students who have been bullied or have special needs.
In short, the specifics are in flux. But the state's three teachers unions are watching carefully.
"They have made this bill so ugly in the Senate, and we've been told they have support in the House," [Fred Albert, president of the American Federation of Teachers' West Virginia chapter], told the Gazette Mail. "We feel that we have no other measure but to send the message that we're following this hour by hour."
And making sure that as few kids as possible have choice in education.
Related: "What Really Drove Los Angeles Teachers To Go on Strike?"