West Virginia Governor Jim Justice Fires Gayle Manchin After She Offered to Resign

CHARLESTON — Gov. Jim Justice on Monday fired Secretary of Education and the Arts Gayle Manchin ahead of his decision to reorganize the agency.

Manchin is a former state school board president and the wife of U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va..

Lawmakers on Saturday passed legislation to dismantle the Department of Education and the Arts. The governor has not yet decided whether to veto or sign the bill.

Manchin had sought the department’s preservation, and had offered to resign if that would push Justice to veto the legislation.

The department’s agencies include Culture and History, Public Broadcasting, the Center for Professional Development, the Library Commission, Rehabilitation Services and Volunteer West Virginia. Those would either be absorbed by other departments or continue as separate agencies within the executive branch.

“In an obvious rush to score points, the Republican state legislature passed dangerous and destructive legislation to eliminate the Office of Education and the Arts on a mostly party-line vote,” Manchin said earlier Monday.

“I call on the governor to veto this reckless and politically motivated legislation — or work with me to dissolve this agency, if that’s what he wants to do, in a responsible and compassionate way. It’s obvious that there aren’t any significant financial savings here; we need to get the politics out of this.”

Delegate Paul Espinosa, R-Jefferson, chairman of the House Education Committee, rebuked Manchin’s claims that the motivation behind the bill was a political attack.

“This bill is in large part a response to a status report on the implementation of the 2012 Education Efficiency Audit of West Virginia’s Primary and Secondary Education System given to the Joint Standing Committee on Education … by the West Virginia Board of Education. The board called for ‘the removal of statutes that encroach upon WVBE’s authority to direct professional development.’

“Sadly, I believe we’re witnessing a desperate attempt by a bureaucracy that was first recommended for elimination by Gov. (Gaston) Caperton in 1991, just a few years after its creation, to preserve itself. While I’m hopeful that West Virginia’s economy is beginning to turn the corner, the goal of making our public education system more efficient, from top to bottom, so that tax dollars can be better spent educating our children remains.”