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March 1 was to meant to mark the first time about 20,000 West Virginia school teachers and 13,000 school service employees would be back at work after a four-day strike over disagreements regarding pay and benefits.
Though West Virginia lawmakers, teachers, and others worked hard to hammer out a fair deal that would end the strike — West Virginia Governor Jim Justice agreed on Tuesday that teachers and other education-related employees would be getting a 5 percent pay raise in the first year provided lawmakers approve it in a new bill, but maintained the insurance issue still needs to be settled — Justice says it was a conversation he had with a young student that really changed his point of view. Although the bill was stalled in the state legislature as of Friday morning, Justice told CNN that he was meeting with local leaders to urge them to pass the bill and send kids back to school.
According to CNN, during a town hall meeting in Wheeling on Feb. 26, 12-year-old Gideon Titus-Glover questioned the governor's choice to increase West Virginia's tourism budget compared to education spending. After all, the strike began after Justice signed legislation on Feb. 21 which granted teachers a just a 2 percent pay increase starting in July, followed by 1 percent pay increases over the next two years.
In response to Titus-Glover's question, the politician then began to discuss returns on investments in marketing, declaring that turning $1 into $8 is a good investment.
Without missing a beat, the middle school student shot back, "Wouldn't it be an investment to invest in smart teachers that would make me smart and then I can in turn, turn around and do smart, good things for our state?"
Not surprisingly, his retort, which you can see below, was met with uproarious applause from the audience.
Still, it wasn't until Justice held a press conference the following day that Titus-Glover, who is the son of a West Virginia teacher, learned the governor had taken his argument to heart and reconsidered his own position on giving teachers a raise.
"I was looking at it as what the prudent thing was to do and not as investment." the governor said at the press conference of why he changed his mind, adding that he couldn't stop thinking about his exchange with Titus-Glover.
Though he had hoped to encourage the governor to see things from a different perspective, even Titus-Glover was surprised his words had such an impact. "I think it's kind of crazy, I didn't expect this," he told local news station WTRF. "People were saying, 'good job, good job,' but I didn't expect this much to come out of it."
Added Titus-Glover's mom, Michelle, "I watched the Governor and while he was speaking I cried because it was really touching that he would listen to my 12-year-old and that my 12-year-old would be able to stand up and speak his mind."
Titus-Glover is one of many young people today standing up and demanding change from their lawmakers. After the school shooting in Parkland earlier this month, student survivors mobilized for gun control, and during a CNN town hall on Feb. 21, Florida Senator Marco Rubio announced he had changed his position on magazine clip size, likely as a direct response to the shooting and the student activism that followed.
UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the bill to give teachers a raise is stalled in the West Virginia legislature.
Cover image via Shutterstock / Jerry Pennington.