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Higher education takes beating in budget

Lawmakers know they have tough choices to make when it is time to cut spending. They are supposed to look for fraud, waste, incompetence, redundancy and all the items for which there is no explanation other than “that’s the way it’s always been.” Instead, state senators who approved a committee substitute for Senate Bill 125 (their version of the budget bill presented by Gov. Jim Justice) give the appearance of having decided if it involves education, cut it. They’ve removed $12 million from West Virginia University, $6 million from Marshall University, $80,000 in unclassified education cuts, $750,000 in current expenses cuts for education, $100,000 from the Department of Agriculture’s FFA-FHA camp, approximately $2.37 million from the institutions covered by the Higher Education Policy Commission, $3.3 million — a complete defunding — from the Jobs and Hope program, $1.2 million from the Communities in Schools program, and $3.8 million — another total defunding — from the Educational Broadcasting Authority.

Some of those cuts come in the form of recommended 1.5 percent agency cuts. But to give an idea of the difference in what that means from agency to agency, the line item for a 1.5 percent cut in current expenses for the Secretary of State’s office is $14,364. On the other hand, the line item for a 1.5 percent cut in current expenses for the Division of Forestry is $82,990; and the line item for the 1.5 percent cut in PEIA Matching is $379,634. Many, but not all, agencies will feel a pinch. Some will be more painful than others, and education is bearing an enormous share of the burden.

It’s a bad look.

“It bothers me,” state Sen. Mike Maroney, R-Marshall, said of the education cuts. “… That’s hard to swallow. We really need to take a look at what we’re doing.”

Indeed. A harder look is needed at where King Bureaucracy is truly spending money unnecessarily — and there is plenty to find — and where money is being thrown at pet projects that will yield little or no result but to line a few pockets. If specific educational efforts are among those yielding poor results, that’s one thing. But a broad swipe at anything with the appearance of educating our citizenry is a mistake.

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