And on Sunday, West Virginia communications workers announced that they, too, would be going on strike after Frontier Communications failed to agree to a contract that employees considered fair.

The strike began February 22 with teachers protesting salaries that are among the lowest in the nation and rising health care costs.

The Republican-controlled state Senate voted Saturday to reject a 5 percent raise for the workers after billionaire Governor Jim Justice said he would get the chamber to approve the increase and set up a bipartisan group to tackle the underfunded health insurance plan - Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA). "It literally broke my heart that our kids - no matter how young they are - understand that our teachers love them and deserve more".

A six-member committee is scheduled to meet Monday afternoon at the state Capitol in Charleston. A spokesman for the state Education Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Missed school days will be made up, either at the end of the school year or by shortening spring break, depending on decisions by individual counties.

The committee will include Delegates Bill Anderson, R-Wood, and Brent Boggs, D-Braxton, and House Education Chairman Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson; and Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Sen. The Senate followed, voting 34-0.

NY teachers earned the most ($79,637), followed by California ($78,711), MA ($77,804), Washington D.C. ($76,131) and CT ($72,561). The five percent promise was agreed to by Governor Jim Justice and the West Virginia House of Delegates before the senate changed the deal.

Both Justice and the WVEA celebrated the deal even before members of the state's House and Senate convened a conference committee to discuss it.

Many in the room were cautiously optimistic, including Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association and Christine Campbell, president of American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia.

"We feel like we're under attack constantly", said Cody Thompson, a social studies and civics teacher at Elkins High School.

In an attempt to move the conversation beyond the increase of $58 million in revenue estimates, Plymale noted that increases by the governor's office late last fiscal year - to the tune of more than double of this year's adjustments - were accurate.

The strike was the first of its kind in West Virginia in almost 30 years. "We are surprised, but we aren't putting all of our eggs from the chickens in one basket". We are very happy that this committee has seen the light for some miraculous reason, but we don't believe it until it's signed, sealed, delivered. "Because seven days ago we were told the same thing, and we're still here". Their strike, in one of the poorest states in the country, has disrupted the education system's 277,000 students and 35,000 employees, forcing working parents to scramble for child care.

Officials closed the Capitol building to visitors Monday after thousands of striking teachers arrived to lobby lawmakers. It was reopened an hour later, and teachers vented their frustration over the lack of progress. When teacher salaries are compared to the median incomes for other households, West Virginia teachers don't fare so badly. Teachers also are sharing stories of donating their time, money or food.

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