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West Virginia teachers refuse to go to school on Tuesday in protest against pay, which is among the lowest in the nation. The teachers strike in all 55 districts of West Virginia and gathered in front of the capital on Monday. (27th of February)
AP

West Virginia public schools remained empty on Tuesday for a fourth day of school – but for the 20,000 teachers and almost a relief could be in sight 10,000 employees

Governor of West Virginia Jim Justice says striking teachers will return to the classroom on Thursday, and he offers teachers and school staff a 5 percent salary increase in the first year.

Justice announced the announcement to a press conference on Tuesday after meeting with union leaders for teachers in all 55 countries.

School staff pushed for higher wages and relief from health care costs.

Justice had previously signed on flat-rate pay increases of $ 808 per teacher next year and $ 404 in each of the next two years. But Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia, said wage increases and a one-year freeze on health insurance premiums are not enough.

Campbell earlier said that the strikers would not return to their classrooms until a long-term solution to the problem of low wage and thinning benefits was found.

"Our problems are clear, our commitment to find a solution has been consistent," she said, "we stand for our students, our communities, and our state."

Kevin Green, 28, teaches social science Bradshaw River View High School "The benefits are terrible and the pay is horrible," Green told the USA TODAY. "There's no incentive to stay out of it, but sometimes that's just not enough."

Teachers say they are sensitive to the impact on the more than 275,000 public school students. Many of these Children come from low-income families and depend on subsidized breakfast and lunches for basic nutrition

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AFT West Virginia spokeswoman Jennifer Wood said teachers worked with local groups, churches and food pantries to provide bags of food they have sent home with students before the strike. Some teachers continue their efforts during the strike.

She said teachers in Marion County delivered food parcels to door-to-door families.

"They pool resources, sometimes with their own money, and put together packages of soup, mac and cheese, food cups," Wood told USA TODAY.

Teacher pay depends on degree levels, experience and other factors. The National Education Association ranked 48th in the state in West Virginia for teachers' wages with an average of US $ 45,622 in 2016.

More than 700 apprenticeships across the state remain vacant due to low wages and erosion benefits , A government-imposed, one-year freeze on escalating health care premiums will help, but not enough, Wood said.

"Setting a one-year patch for the problem will not solve the problem, we need a long-term solution," she said. Teachers are also worried about a bill that would make it harder to collect contributions through payroll deductions and another that would reduce seniority rights, she added.

"Allowing debtors to arbitrarily decide who gets fired could open the door to nepotism and favoritism," Wood said.

She said that teachers "carry the water" for state police officers and other state officials who are struggling with the same problems of low pay and rising health care costs.

Green is resolute in his demands – but do not regret it.

"Teaching has been my passion since I was in first grade," he said. "And it still is."

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