West Virginia Governor Signs Budget to Fund Inmate Education

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin signed a 2016-17 fiscal year state budget on June 17 that will fund the adult inmate education programs that lawmakers had previously tried to eliminate.

In late May, employees from the West Virginia Department of Education received notices of possible layoffs due to a proposed $4 million budget cut. The education department said the cut would have resulted in layoffs for all 53 teachers and principals and the eight support workers who staff the programs for the state’s 20 adult jails and state prisons, reported Charleston Gazette-Mail.

As of early last week, legislators had removed the previously proposed cuts from the programs before passing a budget bill on Tuesday, Betty Jo Jordan, executive assistant to State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano, told the Charleston Gazette-Mail. As of now, all employees would keep their jobs unless Gov. Tombilin line-item vetoes the funding for the programs. His current, proposed budget, which already includes $86 million, doesn’t hint toward cuts in the adult inmate equation programs.

“The governor thinks it’s an important program,” spokesman Chris Stadelman told Charleston Gazette-Mail when asked about the possibility Tomblin could line-item veto spending for adult inmate education out of future budgets. “It’s not something we’ve ever considered cutting.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Mike Hall, R-Putnam, told Charleston Gazette-Mail that the layoff notices were sent to education apartment employees when it looked like lawmakers were going to cut all $4 million from the programs. After receiving calls from employees at Mason County’s Lakin Correctional Center (located in his district) who spoke to the effectiveness of the programs, Hall changed his mind. Lawmakers first decreased the cut to only $1 million and then entirely eliminated it.