WV GOP Votes To Dismantle State’s Dept. of Education and the Arts

Screengrab/West Virginia Legislature/YouTube

Delegate Larry Rowe (D) said the move "is going to destroy arts in West Virginia".

A bill that cleared the West Virginia House of Delegates Saturday will dismantle the state's Department of Education and the Arts and now heads to the governor's desk for signing or veto.

One delegate lamented the bill as the end of the arts in West Virginia.

Many of the offices and programs within the department would be spun off to other state agencies such as the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce.

The West Virginia Educational Broadcasting Authority and the State Library Commission would continue as separate, independent agencies within the executive branch.

Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, said the measure is "a mess" and worries that legislators have not given enough thought to how the bill will house or restructure various programs.

“This is going to destroy arts in West Virginia,” Rowe said. “Always, always the first thing to be cut is the arts.”

And he contended that there will be financial effects that should have been reflected in the budget bill that was finalized earlier in the day.

“We just finished the budget with great pride that we did it before the extended session. We’re supposed to account for all the legislation and complete it before the budget.”

Some have pointed to a political element in the decision to break up the department:

West Virginia’s secretary for Education and the Arts is Gayle Manchin, wife of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin.

The bill would eliminate her position, which pays $95,000 a year.

It is unclear at present whether Governor Jim Justice will sign the bill. The Republican governor tweeted Saturday that he needs to evaluate the bill before deciding the matter:

"When HB 4006 comes to my desk I will evaluate whether it creates any unintended consequences before making a decision."