NATION : W.Va. Teachers Ignore Gov.'s Call

From Times Wire Services

Hundreds of striking teachers ignored Gov. Gaston Caperton's request to return to the classroom today and called for direct talks with the governor.

The strike over pay began last Wednesday and by today had spread to 46 of the state's 55 counties. Classes were canceled in at least 27 counties for more than 150,000 pupils, about half the state's enrollment.

A proposed settlement of the state's first teacher walkout collapsed over the weekend. The largest teachers union says West Virginia has the second-lowest teachers' salaries in the nation.

Leaders of the 16,000-member West Virginia Education Assn. recommended continuing the strike until Caperton promises to call a special legislative session to consider pay raises. But the governor said he won't consider calling a special session until the teachers go back to work.

Last week, Atty. Gen. Roger Tompkins declared the strike illegal and said any teachers who walk off the job can be suspended, fired, barred from teaching for a year and charged with misdemeanors.

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