Teachers in West Virginia are striking for the third consecutive day, closing schools in all of the state’s 55 counties over low pay and benefits. Their strike comes as President Donald Trump argues for arming teachers in the wake of the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 14 students and three teachers were killed.
The cost of arming and training teachers could run upwards of $1 billion, according to an analysis by the Washington Post. That price tag does not include the bonus Trump said teachers should receive if they agree to carry a concealed weapon.
In the meantime, West Virginia’s teachers say their pay and benefits are so low, some teachers resort to working two jobs and others qualify for food stamps.
“You know, as a professional degreed teacher working two jobs, I qualify for [Women, Infants and Children food and nutrition service] and food stamps,” Jacob Fertig, an art teacher at Riverside High School in Belle, West Virginia, told CNN.
West Virginia teachers rank 48th in teacher pay, with an average annual salary of $45,622 in 2016, according to a report by the National Education Association. That average salary fell 0.4% from 2015, one of just five states to see a drop in average annual pay.
West Virginia teachers may not be the only public educators to go on strike. The Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers on Monday issued a 48-hour notice that members will strike unless a collective bargaining agreement is signed.