“Tax Our Gas” and Fund Our Educators in West Virginia

by Duane Nichols on February 23, 2018

Teachers Work Stoppage for Information Picketing at West Liberty, WV

Let’s Fully Fund Education Now —Tax That Fellow Behind the Tree & Me

By Duane Nichols, Retired Chemical Engineer, Stewartstown, WV

This is the Second Day of work stoppage protest by the WV educators. This is important because we ALL benefit from a strong and comprehensive system of education. Education in West Virginia is under funded. There are over 700 openings in the 55 counties, because the salaries and benefits are too low.

The teachers held an incredible rally at the State Capitol in Charleston yesterday, very well attended and very active! The State Legislature, bent on tax cuts year after year, has a responsibility to fully fund education. It’s even specified in our State’s Constitution.

There is money in our natural resources, coal, oil, natural gas, timber, wind, and solar. These sources need to be tapped as necessary to achieve a strong and vibrant state government. We are overdue for an increase in the gasoline tax.

We are overdue for a new tax called a “carbon fee.” Such a carbon tax can supplement education and be used for infrastructure in our state. It’s primary purpose is to reduce the impacts of climate change. Lord knows it is time to start a real response to the effects of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The main effect is called “global warming” that influences our earth in many and various ways.

My education started in 1940, in a one room school for eight grades. Change is inevitable. Later, I was in a three room school until the eighth grade. My high school building had over 12 rooms, but the wood inner structure burned a few years after. The community had such pride in the schools that new and better facilities were constructed. West Virginians have very great pride in our educational system and our educators. Community spirit is high across the State.

We have always had a plentiful supply of coal and natural gas in West Virginia. These can and should be taxed. The coal and gas industries use our land and water (public water), and they dispose of their wastes on the land and in the air and water. These industries should pay for education!

Our teachers are becoming active and they are to be admired for that, as they care deeply! Information picketing has been underway statewide. I saw them in person in Baker in the far East of WV off US Route 48, and in Mount Storm on US Route 50, and in Morgantown on WV 857 near I-68. I known they were out all across the State. See the photo above from West Liberty in Brooke County.

One chant of the educators is “Tax Our Gas.” When deep natural gas is recovered from depths of approximately one mile, it actually belongs to the earth and to the people in general as much as it belongs to mineral owners or surface land owners. So, let’s continue to say Tax Our Gas!

Change continues world-wide. We need education at all ages! We need to learn about the Food-Energy-Water Nexus. We need to learn about “the limits to growth” and the threats to the future of mankind. In education we have hope for the future, so let’s fully fund education and support education in our work day lives and in our leisure time.

Most poems contain ideas to make us think:

“Don’t tax you, don’t tax me; Tax that fellow behind the tree!”

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Christine Hauser February 24, 2018 at 4:45 am

WV Teachers Strike Over Salaries Will Continue Monday

By Christine Hauser, New York Times, February 23, 2018

(PHOTO: Demonstrators at Bridge Street Middle School in Wheeling, W.Va., on Thursday, as they participated in a walkout. Public schools were closed across the state for two days as teachers protested low salaries.)

A two-day walkout by thousands of West Virginia public school teachers and employees to protest low pay will continue on Monday, organizers said on Friday afternoon.

The American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, the West Virginia Education Association and the West Virginia School Service Personnel Association organized the statewide action, which left more than a quarter of a million students out of school on Thursday and Friday in the state’s 55 counties.

Christine Campbell, the president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, said the strike could last beyond Monday if necessary. Teachers across the state, she added, “have made their voice clear.”

“They believe that not enough has been done,” she said.
Organizers say teachers are so poorly paid in the state that some must take second jobs to make ends meet. In 2016, the average salary for a teacher in West Virginia was $45,622, ranking it 48th in the country, according to the National Education Association.

“Our state is not providing the resources for our students,” Cindy Nester, 44, a kindergarten teacher at Augusta Elementary School, said in an interview. “Generally, in a year, I probably pay anywhere from $1,000 to $1,500 out of my own paycheck, and those are just for miscellaneous supplies.”

Schools across the state have a deficit of educators, and experienced teachers have left in search of adequate pay and benefits, the union said.

Ms. Nester, who lives in the city of Romney, agreed. “I live 40 miles from Virginia, 40 miles form Maryland,” she said. “All we have to do is cross those lines and we can make $12,000 or $15,000 more, plus those benefits.”

An estimated 5,000 teachers, parents and supporters protested at the Capitol building in Charleston on Friday, said Kym Randolph, the communications director for the West Virginia Education Association. There were slightly fewer demonstrators than on Thursday, when lines were so long it took up to three hours to get in.

“They are packing the chambers,” Ms. Randolph said in an interview. “The ones that got there early talked to legislators.”

West Virginia’s 680 public schools employ 19,488 classroom teachers, said Alyssa Keedy, a spokeswoman for the state’s education department. There are 277,137 students enrolled.

During the two-day shutdown, state food banks helped feed students who depend on school meals, and supplemental child care centers were set up, according to local news reports.

The strike took place after Gov. James C. Justice, a Republican, signed legislation on Wednesday that would provide teachers and school service personnel a 2 percent raise starting in July, part of an increase in salaries for some state employees.

Teachers and service personnel are scheduled to get an additional 1 percent raise in the 2020 fiscal year, and teachers will get another 1 percent raise in 2021.

“We need to keep our kids and teachers in the classroom,” Governor Justice said in a statement on Wednesday. “We certainly recognize our teachers are underpaid, and this is a step in the right direction to addressing their pay issue.”

Teachers’ unions say the raises will not cover cost-of-living increases. Ms. Randolph said that teachers’ salaries had stagnated for years and that the lack of state contributions to the health care plan had meant that inflation costs have been borne by the employees, who are struggling under higher deductibles, premiums and out-of-pocket expenses.

While the board of the Public Employees Insurance Agency, which administers the health care plan for state employees, has agreed to freeze rates in 2019, the teachers want a more permanent funding fix.

Governor Justice said the agency’s board would work on long-term solutions to address the teachers’ concerns. “Now we need to turn our focus back to continuing public education reforms and making our state educational system the best in the country,” he said.

Ms. Nester said the walkout seemed to have a lot of support from members of her community, adding that she was demonstrating in support of all state workers, not just educators.

“I think it’s very possible it could go on for a while,” she said. “I think we need to fight for this.”


John Gallagher February 24, 2018 at 1:06 pm

Letter: Carbon Tax Needed on Natural Gas Production

“Natural gas should be subject to a carbon tax”

Letter to Editor, Express – Times, Lehigh Valley, February 21, 2018

The author of a February 20 letter, David Spigelmyer of Marcellus Shale Coalition, obviously has a biased opinion about natural gas. He inaccurately states that gas is a “clean, affordable” way to heat homes.

Gas is methane, a greenhouse gas many times more potent than carbon dioxide in increasing global temperatures. The extraction, processing and transportation of methane is fraught with inevitable leaks to the atmosphere. The burning of methane also releases carbon dioxide to the air — in smaller amounts than other fossil fuels, but nevertheless contributing to climate change.

Although a tax on gas production might help close the commonwealth’s budget gap, it will bring the cost of fossil fuels more in line with their actual environmental costs (healthcare, disaster relief, etc.) to consumers, while encouraging conservation efforts.

An even better way to encourage reductions in fossil energy use is called “carbon fee and dividend,” a market-driven, revenue-neutral fee levied at the source of carbon and returned to every person on a per capita basis. That fee, too, would be passed on to consumers, but since not everyone uses the same amount of carbon, the majority of American households (about 66 percent) are estimated to earn back as much or more than they pay in increased costs.

This will protect especially low-income Americans. It will encourage consumers and businesses to become more energy efficient and start converting to low-emissions energy sources, create new jobs and technologies, and reduce carbon emissions to protect our planet for future generations.

John Gallagher, Bethlehem Township, PA

NOTE: Bethlehem Township is a township in Northampton County, PA. It is located in the Lehigh Valley region and is a suburb of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

SOURCE: http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2018/02/natural_gas_should_be_subject.html


Andrea Germanos February 26, 2018 at 11:41 pm

In West Virginia, Historic Statewide Teacher Walkouts to Head Into Fourth Day —- “People are fed up”

Andrea Germanos, WV Metro News, February 26, 2018

Thousands of teachers and other school personnel rallied outside in the West Virginia Capitol on Monday, where union officials announced that the first-ever statewide walkout underway would continue for a fourth day.

“Our teachers and our public employees are getting less in pay per year every year, and people are fed up and fired up about it,” said Morgantown High School art teacher Sam Brunett at a candlelight vigil Sunday outside the Capitol.

The strike, which began Thursday, is indeed historic. (A nearly statewide strike took place in 1990.)

The current action is taking place throughout the state’s 55 counties, which means roughly 20,000 teachers are taking part.

All 55 #WV county school systems are closed again today, Feb. 26. It’s the 3rd day of a strike from teachers & school service workers.@MineWorkers President Cecil Roberts is among scheduled speakers for 2 p.m. rally at #WV Capitol.http://wvmetronews.com/2018/02/25/wv-teachers-service-personnel-gather-at-candlelight-vigil/ … From @BradMcElhinny

— Shauna Johnson (@ShaunaJWV) 3:54 AM – Feb 26, 2018
Day 3 of the West Virginia teachers strike, looking stronger than ever. #55strong @AFTWV @unionveterans

— AFL-CIO (@AFLCIO) 1:33 PM – Feb 26, 2018
West Virginia Public Broadcasting explained the reasons for the strike thusly:

Leaders of teacher unions and their members are calling for salary increases, a permanent fix to healthcare through the Public Employees Insurance Agency and a stop to legislation on what they call attacks on seniority. They are also hoping lawmakers will walk away from a bill known as “paycheck protection” that would make union members opt-in yearly to have dues withdrawn from paychecks.

West Virginia ranked 48th in the nation for average teacher pay in 2017.

While Gov. Jim Justice has signed Senate Bill 267 calling for a salary increase of 2 percent this year with an additional 1 percent increase the following two years, teachers and their union leaders say that’s not enough — especially considering teachers were offered a 2 percent increase last year in more economically troubling times.

The West Virginia Center on Budget & Policy tweeted that the legislation “is not enough to keep with inflation”:

The teacher pay raise @WVGovernor signed last night not is not enough to keep with inflation. #wvlegis #wvpol

— WVCBP (@WVCBP) 9:26 AM – Feb 22, 2018
Speaking to CNN at the Sunday night vigil, Jacob Fertig, an art teacher at Riverside High School in Belle, in Kanawha County, laid out what the pay means in real terms: “You know, as a professional degreed teacher, working two jobs, I qualify for WIC and food stamps.”

Randi Weingarten, national president of the American Federation of Teachers has said the teachers “are engaged in a righteous and fundamental American values fight for dignity and respect.”

At the rally Monday, Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association, said, “We still have a lot of work to do.”

“We will be on the picket lines and be back at the Capitol tomorrow. Make sure they hear your voices.”

I respectfully disagree with those who say that our children aren’t learning during the work stoppage in West Virginia. To the contrary, they’re learning how to stand up for what they believe in. #55Strong #HoldTheLine

— William Ihlenfeld II (@IhlenfeldWV) 5:43 PM – Feb 23, 2018

SOURCE: https://www.commondreams.org/news/2018/02/26/west-virginia-historic-statewide-teacher-walkouts-head-fourth-day/


Frances Conner March 3, 2018 at 12:15 am

Thank you for such a good article. 

I completely agree, they rob our state for huge profits and destroy our water, air and roads. 

They should have been taxed all along.

Frances Conner


New Republic March 5, 2018 at 2:08 pm

The West Virginia Teachers’ Strike Takes Aim at Coal and Gas

>>> With the legislature blocking a pay raise, protesters are demanding more from the state’s dominant industries < <<

From Sarah Jones, New Republic, March 2, 2018

On Thursday, the public school teachers of West Virginia staged a wildcat strike. Without authorization from either of the state’s two education unions—the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association—teachers walked out to register their dissatisfaction with the government’s response to their grievances.

Earlier in the week, Republican Governor Jim Justice and the unions’ state leads had come up with a compromise bill, HB 4145, that raised teacher pay by 5 percent. But it did not create a permanent fix for the Public Employee Insurance Agency, which is meant to provide all public employees with affordable health insurance but has effectively been cutting funding every year. As I previously reported, some teachers distrusted the deal when it was first announced on Wednesday. A letter that day from Justice to state employees announcing the formation of a PEIA task force did not mollify many of them.

On Wednesday night, the bill passed the state House. On Thursday, Senate Republicans voted against taking it up. Shortly afterwards, news of further teacher walkouts began rolling across social media. At 6:02 pm, it was official: There would be no public school in West Virginia on Friday, which means schools across the state will have been closed for a full week. And now, teachers are demanding that lawmakers take a hard look at fixing PEIA, possibly using a modest tax hike on the coal and gas industries.

It’s not clear now when the strike will end, and state Democrats are pinning the blame on Republicans. Minority Leader Roman Prezioso told me on Thursday that he’s not surprised Republicans voted to table the bill. “We think that it’s a stall tactic,” he explained, “and that their ulterior motive is to turn public sentiment against the teachers.”

The continuation of the strike raises two possible courses of action for the state: It could try to issue injunctions to force teachers back into classrooms, or it could hire replacement workers, better known as scabs. But Anne Lofaso, a professor of law at West Virginia University and the parent of a child in public school, told me that she thinks the first option would backfire and that the second option is unlikely to occur. There are 727 teacher vacancies in the state, meaning government officials have no adequate supply of replacement labor.

The state could try to call in substitute teachers, but according to Lofaso, substitute teachers are standing in solidarity with full-time educators. And even if they did cross picket lines, there would still be vacancies. “It’s economic warfare,” she said. “Each side has a quiver, and they have their arrows in the quiver, and the arrow in the quiver of the teachers is the right to strike.”

While some state officials have called the strike illegal, Lofaso objected to that characterization. “The only thing that the West Virginia Supreme Court has stated is that public employees are unprotected by the state constitution and they’re unprotected by the federal constitution,” she explained. “There’s a big difference between being illegal and being unprotected.” There is no statute, for example, that assigns criminal penalties to striking public workers. However, teachers could legally face disciplinary action for refusing to go to work, as one analysis by Politifact confirmed.

And the injunction process would be difficult. Lofaso, who formerly worked for the National Labor Relations Board, explained that the state would have to file an injunction in every county in the state, then successfully argue that the strike endangered a child’s constitutional right to an education more than the state’s own inadequate funding of the public school system.

Teachers, meanwhile, are digging in. Kristina Gore, who teaches fifth grade social studies in Logan County, said some teachers on her picket line had been prepared to give the PEIA task force a chance to work. “A lot of teachers do understand that PEIA is a complex issue and that it’s going to take time,” she explained. When senate Republicans tabled the pay raise, however, that good will largely died. “Prior to that, the mood on a lot of picket lines in our county was that a lot of teachers were considering going back to work tomorrow. But once we heard that the pay raise was tabled the mood at my school is that we’re not going back to work,” she said.

The issue has expanded beyond the plight of teachers. “I don’t think I recall seeing so much anger being openly expressed,” said Gordon Simmons, an organizer for the United Electricworkers, which represents state and local workers. “My phone and email have been blowing up with state workers asking what they can do to support school employees. Historically, state government has played teachers, who are highly unionized, against everyone else. The PEIA issue has put all public workers in West Virginia in the same boat, and the resulting sense of solidarity is awesome.”

The protesting teachers are beginning to link their efforts to the state’s long history of worker activism. “I feel that history is repeating itself,” said Gore. “And I’m talking way back to the coal camp days, when the miners were paid in scrip and they were basically owned by their employers.” Gore’s county, Logan, is the home of Blair Mountain, where an anti-union sheriff and union-busting detectives bombed and shot at striking miners. Gore’s mother grew up near Blair.

A recurring complaint during the strike is the state’s low severance tax of about 5 percent on coal and natural gas extraction. Other states have higher tax rates, and raising West Virginia’s rate could help fund PEIA. “Even a modest increase to 7.5 percent, while leaving plenty for the industry, would have a big impact on the state’s finances,” the West Virginia Center for Budget and Policy wrote on February 26. “Increasing the severance tax rate to 7.5 percent would increase severance tax revenue by $93 million in 2019, and at total $585 million from 2019 to 2023.”

And so the issue comes back, as it so often does, to West Virginia’s coal and energy industries. Solving PEIA’s financial woes means the legislature would have to confront those industries. “No one is at the point of violent revolt, it’s been a peaceful protest. But the parallel between then and now is that our state is in poverty and will continue to be in poverty because these industries come in and tell our representatives how things are going to go. Our legislators bow down to them,” Gore complained.

Justice proposed a special session to raise the severance tax on natural gas, but some members of his own party seem reluctant to change the status quo. On Tuesday, Senate Republicans voted to shelve a measure that would have diverted some existing severance tax revenue to PEIA. And on Thursday evening, not long after killing the pay raise bill, Senate President Mitch Carmichael expressed further opposition to raising the tax. “Carmichael said raising the severance tax on natural gas could cause West Virginia to be less competitive than its neighbors, Ohio and Pennsylvania,” reported the West Virginia MetroNews. (Last year, Carmichael had supported a measure that would’ve reduced the severance tax even further.)

“This has moved from a strike to a movement to a reckoning,” Gore said. “And that reckoning is on public officials who are in the pockets of big energy.”



Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: