Lawmakers in West Virginia passed a bill that would entirely cut the state’s Department of Education and the Arts.
The state’s House of Delegates passed the measure on Saturday, voting 60-36 to entirely eliminate the state’s arts agency and the role of Secretary for Education and the Arts. Governor Jim Justice has not said whether he will sign the bill into law, tweeting after the vote, “When HB 4006 comes to my desk I will evaluate whether it creates any unintended consequences before making a decision.” Though he may not sign the legislation, on Monday, Justice fired the state’s Secretary for Education and Arts, Gayle Manchin (whose husband is U.S. Senator Joe Manchin). The Hill reports that some delegates are highly concerned about the fate of West Virginia’s arts if the bill does go through. “Always, always the first thing to cut is the arts,” grieved Democrat delegate Larry Rowe. The bill follows on the heels of a strike organized by West Virginia teachers, which shut down schools for nine days until lawmakers granted a 5% raise—though they said it would be paid for with funding cuts, not new revenue.