West Virginia teacher strike headed for a 9th day

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Striking teachers in West Virginia delivered yet another message to lawmakers today by packing the state Capitol to capacity, the eighth school day of the walkout.

The show of support by thousands didn't immediately sway the lawmakers, who failed to agree on a 5 percent pay raise that would end the strike, forcing districts to cancel school again Tuesday. The governor, union leaders and the House of Delegates agreed to the pay raise for the teachers, among the lowest paid in the nation, but the Senate offered only a 4 percent increase.

A conference committee of House and Senate members met for more than an hour today but adjourned without an agreement, drawing the ire of teachers.

Senate Finance Chairman Craig Blair, R-Berkeley, and Senate Majority Leader Ryan Ferns, R-Ohio, said they remained skeptical that revised, higher revenue figures from Gov. Jim Justice to support the higher pay raises were legitimate. Blair suggested that schools reopen while the Legislature tries to work on the bills, prompting groans from the audience.

Ghent Elementary second-grade teacher April Smith attended the meeting and was disheartened.

"I don't see them coming to an agreement, especially to satisfy everyone," she said.

The committee's initial inaction prompted schools to close again statewide Tuesday, the ninth day of canceled classes.

The Capitol was closed today after 5,000 people entered, posing security concerns.

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