Last night a lawmaker in West Virginia, Eric Householder had a heated twitter exchange with a teacher (see some screen shots below).
The teacher tweeted that we need to #fixPEIA – PEIA is the Public Employees Insurance Agency in West Virginia. All state employees are served by this and like all insurances, this agency is dealing with increased costs. Instead of supporting the state workers, the government is passing along unreasonable cuts in service and increases in copays for these reduced benefits.
Rather than listening, working with colleagues to try to solve a problem or engaging in constructive dialogue with state residents, Mr. Householder chose to respond disrespectfully, suggesting this teacher could teach summer school or get a second job or cut internet at home to save money. Seriously, this was the conversation. On twitter.
As you can imagine, educators were upset. All day long, they have been tweeting at Mr. Householder.
West Virginia consistently ranks 49th of 50 states for teacher pay, and consistently at the bottom of ratings for conditions, job opportunities and just about every other ranking that rates education conditions. Yet, teachers continue to teach, stay in WV because of their love for the state and power through these conditions.
I’m the daughter of WV teachers. I’m the granddaughter of WV teachers. I’m the niece of WV teachers. I grew up and went to WV public schools. I went to college in WV. And I never though I’d teach or live anywhere else but my beloved state. However, here I am, 14 years into my career and I’ve been outside WV for the last 13. I’ve lived through benefit cuts – when I was in elementary school both of my parents were WV teachers and we lost our dental and vision insurance in budget cuts. Later on, my grandmother, a retired teacher who was promised insurance benefits after retirement found them taken away in another round of budget cuts. And now, my parents are facing incredible premium increases and benefit changes once again…you guess it, in the name of budget cuts.
WV State code states that employees contribute 20% and that the state pay 80% of the cost of healthcare. State employees are facing drastic reductions in benefits and much higher copy’s and out-of-pocket costs. Instead of working to find solutions, instead of amending the code to change the percentage and fund this cost increase, the legislature is on break right now and engaging negatively with educators. Another lawmaker has spent time this week promoting a bill that would ensure that the two major universities in WV (WVU and Marshall) continue to play a basketball game each year. AND then, to suggest teachers should cut internet or get a second job to save money?
Please contact Eric Householder – you can reach him on twitter here – and let him know how you feel about educators being told to get a second job, being talked to as though we need to cut costs more and more. The years of cuts have taken a toll on WV educators. More and more of them are leaving for other states and better pay, working conditions and benefits. In fact, WV reported just last month that there are more than 600 instructional vacancies that they are unable to fill. I’m sure these comments and suggestions will help attract and keep educators.
And to all my friends and family teaching in WV – keep on fighting the fight! We stand with you and will advocate for the state to #FixPEIA.