At the end of this legislative session, HB 4006 was passed eliminating the Department of Education and the Arts. Delegate Storch and Senators Ferns and Weld were eager supporters of this political travesty whose damage will be most felt by children, as well as the larger artistic and educational communities of West Virginia. Their argument was that this department was redundant and could be absorbed by the West Virginia Department of Education.
Despite the similarity in names, the departments are very, very different. Anyone who understands the real work that goes on in Education and the Arts knows this. They also know that there is no way any other government agency could even begin to absorb what gets done efficiently and effectively under the Department of Education and the Arts. Programs like Energy Express, I know from first hand experience, provide a life-line to poor children across the state and will never be easily replicated elsewhere. Worse, any time the arts are singled out for cuts, we risk the very thing we expect our leaders to do — to support the values and pride we all have in West Virginia. Who better celebrates our heritage, our culture, our pride in community than the close-knit artistic community of West Virginia who, though perennially underpaid, are more enthusiastic than anyone in spreading the good news about West Virginia throughout the state and the nation. Shame on Storch, Weld, and Ferns — you have let us all down by playing politics with our children, education, and the arts.