West Virginia state lawmakers pass bill to dismantle Department of Education and Arts

Lawmakers in West Virginia have voted to dismantle the state's Department of Education and the Arts just days after the longest teachers' strike in the state's history ended.

West Virginia Metro News reports that a bill dismantling the agency and spinning off some offices to other parts of state government passed Saturday and will now head to the desk of Gov. Jim Justice (R).

Among other provisions, the bill would eliminate the position of state secretary for Education and the Arts, which is currently held by Gayle Manchin, wife of Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThe Hill's 12:30 Report Democrats desperate for a win hail spending bill Coal miners' union to endorse Manchin MORE (D-W.Va.). 


The bill passed the state House by a vote of 60-36, with Democrats opposing the plan that they say will destroy public funding for the arts in the state.

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

Teachers in West Virginia won a statewide 5 percent raise for all public employees and a commission to deal with issues with the Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) after carrying out a nine-day strike that shut down schools in all 55 state counties.

Manchin, a centrist Democrat in the red state, blasted state Republicans during the strike for "playing games" with the state's education system.

“Sadly, just like in Washington, it looks like political gamesmanship is winning the day & preventing a bipartisan compromise led by the Governor to help our educators & public employees, fix our PEIA system & get students learning again from becoming law,” Manchin tweeted earlier in March.

“I urge the Senate Republican leadership to stop playing games and send our kids back to school,” he added.