CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gayle Manchin, West Virginia’s secretary for Education and the Arts, is no fan of legislation to dismantle the department and move its functions elsewhere.

“It’s a little scary to think the executive of this state, the governor, can have a cabinet position and appoint a secretary and the education committee in the House can just do away with it,” Manchin said Wednesday, after the House Education Committee voted to do just that.

The bill that would dismantle Education and the Arts still has to make it through several steps before it would become reality. It now goes to House Finance before potentially moving to the full House.

A similar bill considered last year passed the House but didn’t make it through the Senate. There’s also the question of whether Gov. Jim Justice would accept the bill or veto it.

The Department of Education and the Arts dates back to the Caperton administration. Caperton, in 1989, proposed a constitutional amendment that would have placed responsibility for public education with the department, rather than with the state Board of Education.

The amendment was defeated, but the department lived.

Manchin, the wife of U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, did not address the House Education Committee but she was in the audience for the entire, lengthy meeting.

“I think there will be programs lost, programs that are very important to the governor,” Manchin told MetroNews’ Hoppy Kercheval after Wednesday afternoon’s meeting.

“The governor appointed me to be his cheerleader for Governor’s School for the Arts, for STEM, the internship program. And there are no guarantees that these programs will be carried o

House Education members talked about many of the details of the bill, with Republicans saying other agencies could take on the duties of the Department of Education and the Arts.

“This cabinet-level position has become a catch-all to stick programs in to justify their existence,” said Delegate Mike Folk, R-Berkeley.

Delegate Larry Rowe, D-Kanawha, was particularly outspoken in defense of keeping the agency as it is.

Rowe talked about a trend toward arts programs being sacrificed more broadly and contended the bill means arts programs will lose their designated advocate in state government.

“When we lose our Secretary of Education and the Arts, the arts will be gone,” Rowe said.

The bill also prompts some other reorganization of some state government programs — for example, eliminating the Office of Professional Development as a freestanding unit and moving its functions to the state Department of Education.