CHARLESTON, W.Va. — As teachers cheered behind him, Gov. Jim Justice said he would veto an omnibus education bill that has prompted a strike if it reaches his desk.

“I would,” he said.

The governor stopped short of saying educators have a right to strike. But when asked for his view, he did say they have a right to express their opinion.

“These people are very concerned about what they do in life. We shouldn’t be judgmental about what they decide to do to exercise their voice. I wish we weren’t on strike. But they have every chance to exercise their voice,” Justice said.

This is West Virginia’s second teacher strike in two years.

Last year, the walkout focused on pay and the stability of health insurance.

This year, the dynamic is different.

Justice promised another teacher pay raise back in October and said today that bill should have gone through on its own. Instead, it was bundled with other provisions.

“We should have moved this thing through. Now we’ve got a situation where kids are out of school, parents are disrupted. Educators are unhappy. And we go back to the thing I said before, Why?” Justice said.

He later commented, “You talk about blowing our own leg off.”

Justice’s comments came this morning on MetroNews’ “Talkline.” Teachers gathered behind him as he talked.

The three educators unions called a strike on Monday night as the Senate started passage of an omnibus education bill open to seven charter schools and 1,000 education savings accounts, which provide funding for students leaving public schools for private education.

All school systems in West Virginia except one county were closed today.

Justice, a Republican, finds himself on the opposite side of the issue from the Republican-led Senate.

“I’m sure the senators are reasonable people, and they’re trying to do the right thing,” he said. “But they’re not doing the right thing.”

He said his own leadership is necessary to resolve the differences.

“In all honesty, I’ve got to be the coach. I’ve got to be the leader,” he said. “I stand ready to meet with all the parties and try to push this thing across the finish line.”

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