West Virginia governor Jim Justice again reiterated his intention to veto the omnibus education bill passed by the state Senate, telling West Virginia Metro News Tuesday morning that he supported the right of striking school employees to “exercise their voice.”
“I think [Senate Republicans] made a monstrous mistake,” Justice said when ask point blank about Monday’s vote. “We did not need this coming from the senate.”
Justice continued to advocate for a ‘clean bill’ containing items to boost public education but without the controversial provisions for charter schools and education savings accounts.
“Education savings accounts have gotta go,” Justice said. “Let’s just be real. There’s just a small handful of states that have them. The education community feels threatened by them. Why in the world are we continuing to push the limits and irritate people, and what are we really getting out of it?”
He added that he could support a pilot of two charter schools, but no more.
The Republican governor accused the Senate of intentionally antagonizing teachers by including items like paycheck protection and non-severability, before relenting on those measures.
“If were willing to just back away from it, why did we put it out there?” Justice wondered. “Explain to me why we are stirring the pot just to be stirring the pot… Did we really need to just wave a red flag in front of the bull?”
The governor also expressed frustration that his office was not consulted by Senate leadership about the controversial changes in the bill.
“I should have been consulted,” he said. “There was no call. Everyone is just plowing on their own here.”
And while the governor said he wished school employees were not on strike, he understood why they made the decision they did due to their distrust in the lawmakers in Charleston.
“I wish we weren’t on strike, but they have every right to exercise their voice,” Justice said. “These people are very concerned about what they do in life, and we shouldn’t be judgmental of what they decide to do to exercise their voice. I understand their skepticism.
“I’ve got to be the coach. I’ve got to be the leader. I stand ready to meet with all parties and try to push this thing across the finish line… The net of the whole thing as far as I’m concerned is, we need to go back to a clean bill.”