CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The revised West Virginia Constitution of 1872 provided that the superintendent of schools be elected by the people.
A hundred years later, some of us were accused of being "know-nothings" by certain self-labeled "modern government" tub-thumpers because we vocally opposed ill-advised elements of their misleadingly named (shades of Orwell!) "Better Government Amendment," especially the provision that, thereafter, the superintendent would be a will-and-pleasure hand, hired by a board the governor selected. Indeed, there is nothing "modern" about multilayered despotism. It predates recorded history.
My contention remains that, by their very accession to the state's highest office, governors prove themselves to be the current politico de tutti politicos. I argued that any suggestion that every governor would, or even could, leave politics and patronage out of the process in appointing government officials is ludicrous on its face. The succession of events since then have reinforced the belief of many that "better government" did not result from that 1970s constitutional miscarriage.
In fact, the recent suggestion that the governor appoint judges so as to "depoliticize the judicial process" is no less a power-grabbing fabrication. Appointment compounds the political element geometrically.
By 1989, West Virginia voters had wised up enough to knock down a proposal by Gov. Gaston Caperton to eliminate the Board of Education as an entity and placing all its powers in his new Department of Education and the Arts, which would have consolidated the governor's grip.
We need to put not only the superintendent's position back in the hands of the voters, but also the entire state Board of Education. Election by the people gives us the opportunity to periodically cast out those shown to be mugwumps, nodding chair-warmers and the vainglorious. As we have seen, appointment of such by the governor can bring a dark cloud that seems to dwell over our state forever.
I had hoped that, by now, the irreversible Jorea Marple debacle and brouhaha in the Board of Education (after 660 Google pages on the matter, I quit looking) would have died down. We would be back to nepotism, cronyism and backside-bussing as usual.