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THE state Board of Education bungled the manner in which the board fired Jorea Marple as state school superintendent. But the move brought light to the problems of an expensive, over-regulated and failed education system that needs a swift kick in the pants.

The Census Bureau reported:

n The state spends $3.4 billion a year on public schools.

n The state ranks fourth in school spending per $1,000 of personal income for residents.

n The state ranks 17th in spending per student.

And yet despite all that extra effort by taxpayers, Education Week gave the state a big fat F in education. The graduation rate is a paltry 78 percent.

Students rank below the national average in 21 of 24 categories measured by the National Assessment of Education Progress.

In January, Public Works issued an independent audit of the school system and said West Virginia is "one of the most highly regulated systems in the country — if not the most — with many details of school operations spelled out in code."

West Virginia needs to welcome fresh ideas that improve education.

Taxpayers have been doing their part for decades. The problem is a Legislature that kowtows to the teachers unions and an unresponsive bureaucracy.

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AFTER three years as state tax commissioner, Craig Griffith decided to return to the private sector. However, the state ethics law limits the job prospects for state officials when they leave state government.

By law, state officials cannot work for a company that their department regulates. The problem is, the state tax commissioner regulates everything.

The state Ethics Commission will vote next month on granting Griffith an exemption. The vote should be unanimously in his favor.

Griffith was a tax consultant before he became

 a deputy tax commissioner five years ago — moving up to the top job two years later. He should be

 allowed to go back to that specialized line of work.

Ethics laws are necessary and commendable, but they are a balancing act.

The public would not be best served if the people most knowledgeable about a subject were fouled out, and only the clueless could serve.

While having the Ethics Commission review each case for an exemption on an individual basis is clunky, the truth is that one rigid rule does not fit all situations.

Limiting post-government choices would cut the number of potential tax commissioners to a dangerously small pool.

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ACCORDING to a survey of 1,000 adults of all ages by Think Finance, 45 percent of those surveyed want to skip Christmas and the holidays altogether. But layaway is apparently on the way back.

There may be a connection between the two.

Think Finance is a provider of payday loans and other services for people with limited or no access to regular banking services.

Its survey showed that 41 percent of Americans planned to use layaway programs to buy gifts for Christmas and the holidays this year. Furthermore, paying now and buying later is not just for the poor, as 32 percent of the people who earn $100,000 or more said they planned to use layaway.

But 59 percent of those surveyed said they plan to carry some of their holiday debt into the New Year, including 54 percent of those with incomes of $100,000 or more.

An aging population and a population that just

experienced a steep recession may be exercising more care about using credit.

Note to government: An essential part of getting out of debt is not to incur it to begin with.

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EFFORTS to improve the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department's restaurant inspection

system have been ongoing. The board wants to come up with a way to convey to the public the safety of a restaurant.

Health officials are testing the system before putting the final version in place next year.

One flaw is that a sanitarian can find violations, but the restaurant can still get an excellent score if it fixes the violations before the inspector leaves.

That does not seem right. Why should a restaurant that is in compliance regardless of whether an inspector is there or not get the same grade as a restaurant that does not?

The idea is to protect the public. The "excellent" rating should be reserved for those who comply 100 percent of the way 100 percent of the time. As Charleston's hospitality industry grows, its restaurants must up their game as well.


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