Gov. Jim Justice and state lawmakers took the right steps in efforts to end the Department of Education and the Arts, a division of government that at the very least gave the perception of duplicating efforts of other agencies.
West Virginia has a Department of Education, so to have another whole department — and hundreds of employees — under a Department of Education and the Arts made little sense and stems from a time when lawmakers were leaning toward ending the power of the state Board of Education and the current Department of Education.
That dates back to the 1990s, and clearly it’s time to end any confusion. While some question the wisdom of having any state Department of Education, there is no need for two of them.
Opponents of the change voiced fear that quality programs like Energy Express, AmeriCorps and others would be affected and potentially could lose federal dollars.
But Justice put a quick end to that thought on Wednesday as he signed the bill.
“We’ve checked and double-checked, and there will be no lapses in federal funding and no harm caused to any of these programs,” Justice said in a prepared statement. “There are going to be real cost savings here, and at the same time, we are going to create the Department of the Arts and Culture and History that will answer directly to me.”
While some may be wondering how the state can save money while reviving part of the department it just cut, we tend to trust Justice when it comes to making positive things happen.
And lawmakers who led the effort to kill the one department said the ultimate goal was to make the current Department of Education more efficient, thus making better use of taxpayers’ money.
That will be accomplished with Justice’s signature on House Bill 4006, making the law effective July 1.
And we applaud Justice’s actions to stress the importance of the other programs that fell under the former department’s purview.
Efforts to boost the arts, culture and history must be continued — actually, there needs to be more emphasis as we believe strongly that the Mountain State misses a golden opportunity in not stressing its historical significance.
We also believe that West Virginia has shown it has major talent in many fields of art, ranging from music, to sculpture, to painting, as well as heritage arts and crafts.
A department that focuses on developing those elements in a fiscally responsible manner, actually finding ways to generate revenue while improving quality of life, would be a worthwhile venture for Justice and lawmakers to support.
None of that was possible without first eliminating a department whose role was never clearly defined, thus becoming a hodgepodge of programs, some worthwhile, but others duplicative in nature.
With the signing of House Bill 4006, West Virginia’s government operations will improve. And with Justice’s follow-through on the Department of the Arts, we believe there is real opportunity to improve not only residents’ quality of life, but the state’s status on the national level.