W.Va. teachers cheer pay hike deal

Pact ends walkout that closed schools

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia’s striking teachers cheered, sang and wept joyfully Tuesday as lawmakers voted to give them a 5 percent raise, ending a nine-day walkout that closed schools across the state.

A huge crowd of teachers packing the Capitol jumped up and down, chanted “We love our kids!” and sang John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads.” The settlement came after a crippling strike that had idled hundreds of thousands of students, forced parents to scramble for child care and cast a spotlight on government dysfunction in one of the poorest states in the nation.

State schools Superintendent Steve Paine said in a statement he was “pleased that our students, teachers and service personnel will return to school” today.

“We know that the end is in sight,” said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association. “We know that they’re going to be relieved to do what they love best, and that’s taking care of the kids and educating the kids of West Virginia.”

The West Virginia teachers, some of the lowest-paid in the country, had gone without a salary increase for four years. They appeared to have strong public backing throughout their walkout.