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Sen. Manchin still makes a good governor

Not to knock Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, but Sen. Joe Manchin is looking like he is still the governor.

In the past few weeks, Manchin drew attention for school reform and for battling MTV over the airing of "Buckwild" next month, which promises to be "Jersey Shore" on the Pocatalico River.

He fights the good fights.

As governor, Manchin realized the state school system, which is supposed to be "thorough and efficient," is thoroughly inefficient.

Taxpayers are eighth in spending (as measured by percentage of personal income that goes to schools) and schools are 47th in performance. Something must change.

Manchin commissioned an independent audit of the schools by Public Works, a consultant that advised him on savings in other areas of state government.

Public Works found the schools top-heavy and tied down by the union rules that are incorporated in the state code.

That result is thanks to decades of union-backed legislators running the show.

Unions also pushed through a liberal majority on the state Supreme Court in 1976, and six years later the high court took over control of the state schools.

Among those labor-backed justices was Darrell McGraw, who is now in his final term as attorney general.

The report came out last January and awaited a response from the state school board.

The board's staff dawdled for months, and finally the majority of the members on the school board had enough and canned Jorea Marple as state school superintendent.

Unions and liberals were up in arms. One "expert" said the state school board had staged a coup.

The state Constitution disagrees.

"The general supervision of the free schools of the state shall be vested in the West Virginia board of education which shall perform such duties as may be prescribed by law," the constitution says.

We are headed back to that.

Firing Marple was ugly, but with the state school board finally in charge of the school system after a 30-year detour into Lalaland, maybe taxpayers now will get their money's worth.

As for Manchin standing up to MTV, that was not thunder you heard.

That was applause from Manchin's uncle A. James, who as secretary of state regularly defended the honor of the Great State of West Virginia when she was besmirched in the media.

In a letter to MTV network president Stephen Friedman, the younger Manchin called the upcoming show a travesty and requested it not be aired.

"I am repulsed at this business venture," he wrote. "You preyed on young people, coaxed them into displaying shameful behavior and now you are profiting from it."

Way to go, governor.

Er, senator.


Republicans had a good Election Day as they finally ousted McGraw and elected the most Republican legislators in 82 years.

If  the reaction from Jim Lees is an indication of how the majority of Democrats in West Virginia view the state, Republicans just may turn the state redder than Rudolph the reindeer's nose.

Lees was an unsuccessful candidate for his party's nomination for governor in 1996 and 2000.

"Given the lower economic status of many West Virginians, a profound lack of available health-care insurance coverage and a history of union organization and activism, it is indeed a legitimate question as to why West Virginia, during the past 12 years, has marched steadily into ranks of the red states," wrote Lees in the Gazette.

Ah those "lower economic status" ingrates.

But given their "lower economic status" and "profound lack of available health-care insurance," the real question is why West Virginians put up with the Democratic Party for so long.

Its policies failed.

As they say at the auditions, "Next!"

Surber may be reached at don



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