LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – A week after thousands of teachers from across Kentucky marched on the Capitol in response to pension changes and possible budget cuts, Gov. Matt Bevin warned against an “irresponsible” statewide strike.

Teachers have been vocal opponents of pension reform and budget cuts, although lawmakers who supported the two-year spending plan passed April 2 were quick to point out that the budget boosted per-pupil funding for the state’s public education system. Most teachers were out for spring break as legislators voted on the budget and tax reform bills, but enough called in sick that day to cancel school ahead of a planned rally organized by the Kentucky Education Association in Frankfort.

Bevin announced Monday that he will veto budget and tax reform bills passed by the General Assembly, and he said a wider demonstration like a teacher strike would be “illegal.”

“I would not advise that,” Bevin said during a Capitol news conference. “I really wouldn’t. I think that would be a mistake.”

The governor offered pointed criticism of the KEA, calling the state’s largest teachers’ group a "problem.”

“They’ve been very vocal, very loud, refusing to be a part of the solution even though in reality their members are going to be the beneficiaries of all of us getting this right, and that’s why we need to get it right,” Bevin said.

The KEA urged Bevin to reconsider his decision to veto the budget and tax bills.

KEA President Stephanie Winkler also took issue with Bevin calling her group a "problem."

"KEA is 45,000 women and men who serve in every community in Kentucky, supporting and training our children for the jobs they will do when they take their places in the adult world," she said in a statement. "KEA members live, work and pay taxes in every community in this state. If the governor wants to work with ‘job creators and taxpayers’ why does he insist on insulting so many people who do both?”

The Jefferson County Teachers Association asked KEA to call teachers and advocates back to Frankfort on Friday when lawmakers return from the veto recess “in order to demand that the legislature override these harmful cuts that will hurt our students.”

JCTA also asked its members who have a personal day to use it Friday, although the group said “it would not be appropriate to use a sick day for this purpose.”

“The Governor’s veto of a budget that includes hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue dedicated to public education is nothing short of reprehensible because it will harm every public school student in our Commonwealth,” JCTA posted on its Facebook page.

“On behalf of the 6,000 dedicated public school educators JCTA represents, we call on the members of the General Assembly to do the right thing for the children of our Commonwealth by overriding the Governor’s budget and revenue vetoes.”

While he criticized the KEA and the prospect of a strike by teachers, Bevin praised the work of Kentucky educators.

“I don’t think they want to do the irresponsible thing,” he said. “I think what they do want to do is educate young people and make sure there’s funding there to do it.”

Reach reporter Kevin Wheatley at 502-585-0838 and kwheatley@wdrb.com. Follow him on Twitter @KevinWheatleyKY.

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