Thousands of public school teachers refused to go to work in March 1990 in West Virginia’s first statewide teachers’ strike, a result of mounting frustration with having among the lowest salaries in the nation. The 11-day strike began March 7, late in the West Virginia legislature’s annual session. The strike resulted in a special session on education later in 1990 and proved to be the catalyst for several changes in the state public school system, including the establishing of faculty senates in each school.
Teachers struck after negotiations with the governor’s office and legislature failed to produce agreement on a pay package. Overall, teachers in 47 of the 55 counties were involved. An end to the strike was announced March 17, when House Speaker Chuck Chambers, Senate President Keith Burdette, and teachers’ union leaders announced they had reached a consensus. Legislative leaders, with the support of Governor Gaston Caperton, agreed to develop short-term and long-term plans for public education and to improve teachers’ pay.
Caperton initiated a series of town meetings across the state to discuss the future of education in West Virginia. Those meetings and continuing discussions with educators helped to form the basis of the legislature’s special session on education in August 1990. Teachers secured significant pay raises during the next three years and budgets were provided for faculty senates in each school, giving teachers direct input into school policies and operations. New training and support programs for teachers were developed to ensure better classroom instruction.
Written by Elizabeth Jill Wilson
Brunner, Bob. The Caperton Years: 1989-1993. Beckley: BJW Printing, 1997.
Rice, Otis K. & Stephen W. Brown. The Mountain State: An Introduction to West Virginia. Cincinnati: C. J. Krehbiel, 1997.
Charleston Gazette, 3/1990.