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Marple’s lawsuit shows why she was fired

Jorea Marple's lawsuit against the taxpayers of West Virginia is a sad end to a distinguished career as a teacher, principal and superintendent.

She spent whatever sympathy her firing generated by suing the state. Suddenly it's no longer for the children. It's about her.

Still, I thank her for filing this frivolous lawsuit because it is very telling about the state of education in West Virginia today and the priorities of its administrators.

Technically, Marple is suing the state Board of Education, but the board works for the taxpayers and the taxpayers will foot the bill for defending board members.

The board fired her as state school superintendent in November because board members were not satisfied with her and her staff's response to an independent review of the state's public schools that found our schools to be expensive and ineffective.

West Virginia is eighth among the 50 states "in education expenditures relative to income," the report by PublicWorks said.

Teacher pay is seventh "relative to the state's income levels" and so forth.

The report authors seem to have factored out the money the state socks away each year to cover the hole in the teacher pension fund.

Those payments average $333 million a year - or double what we spend on prisons.

"In sum, West Virginia, unlike most similarly poor states, cannot be said to stint on education spending," the report found.

But academic achievement fails to match that Herculean effort by state taxpayers to provide a high-quality education to the second-poorest kids in the nation.

The trade publication Education Week for years has given West Virginia taxpayers A's for funding and our schools F's in student performance.

I do not blame Marple or any other educator and certainly not the teachers for this situation. Too many parents do not take education seriously.

You cannot jump-start a dead battery.

What I do blame her for - and why I supported her firing - was her inability to recognize that an overhaul is needed.

She represented the status quo, something liberals once opposed.

Beginning with the Recht decision delivered in May 1982, liberals have run the state education system.

Since that time, West Virginians have reduced classroom sizes, added kindergarten and pre-kindergarten, raised teacher salaries and compensation, built modern schools in rural areas despite declining enrollments and basically given liberals everything they wanted.

For example, West Virginia was one of the first states to get computers in the classroom.

These were improvements. Conservatives by and large supported these changes. The problem was the results did not match the money.

And the school system also became a centralized mess where classroom decisions were made in Charleston and the rights of employees trumped common sense.

Her lawsuit shows this. Despite being an at-will employee, Marple insists that the state school board could not fire her.

The state Constitution states otherwise.

"The West Virginia Board of Education shall in the manner prescribed by law, select the state superintendent of free schools who shall serve at its will and pleasure," it reads.

Her service no longer pleased the majority of the board members.

She has no cause for suing, but she pursues that path because that is, after all, what brought liberals to power originally.

Change came 30 years ago and swept out the old, failed order in state schools.

The season for change has come again, and this regime is fighting tooth and nail against the inevitable, just like the regime it replaced.

Surber's email is



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