CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The acting secretary for the West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts, which will soon be dissolved, foresees no major obstacles in the path toward its elimination under a new state law.

“I’ve been thoroughly impressed with the agencies as I’ve walked in,” said Clayton Burch, associate state superintendent of schools and interim secretary for West Virginia Department of Education and the Arts.

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Clayton Burch

“(They’re) Prepared for transition plans and a renewed sense of self-worth.”

Governor Jim Justice chose Burch to replace former state Education and the Arts Secretary Gayle Manchin who Justice fired in March during the period when he was considering whether to sign the bill that eliminated her department and her job.

Last week, Justice signed the bill.

Under the new law which takes effect on June 8, agencies currently within the state Department of Education and the Arts are going to be shifted to other existing departments, including the Department of Education and the Department of Commerce.

The Department of Education and the Arts is currently made up of the following agencies:

– Division of Culture and History
– Division of Rehabilitation Services
– West Virginia Library Commission
– West Virginia Public Broadcasting
– Volunteer West Virginia
– Center for Professional Development.

Going forward, the Center for Professional Development, for example, will fall under the Department of Education.

Dr. Steve Paine, state superintendent of schools, said that makes sense.

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Dr. Steve Paine

“There’s been redundancies since 1990 in terms of the services that are provided, so we think we can easily absorb what goes on there too,” Paine said during a Monday appearance with Burch on MetroNews “Talkline.”

Paine said they’ve determined federal funds for the affected programs will transfer as scheduled, according to the information they’ve been able to gather.

Of the programs, “I think what we’re finding through this process is they’re actually gaining attention,” Burch said. “Honestly, I’ve learned more in the last month or two about these programs than I even knew.”

“House Bill 4006 was designed to make our education department more efficient and better tailored to fit the needs of our students, educators and administrators,” House Education Chairman Paul Espinosa (R-Jefferson, 66) previously said.

The Department of Education and the Arts was created under Gov. Gaston Caperton. In 1989, he proposed a Constitutional Amendment that would have placed responsibility for public education under the department, as opposed to the Department of Education.

Even though the Amendment was defeated, the Department of Education and the Arts has continued to operate, but that will change under the new law.

Critics argued the department, with its cabinet secretary, was needed to champion the arts in West Virginia.

To continue arts advocacy specifically, Governor Jim Justice has said he would propose the creation of a Department of the Arts and Culture and History during a Special Session to be held as early as next month.

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