Governor Eric Greitens, R, has withdrawn the Missouri Board of Education appointment of Tim Sumners of Joplin. Sumners, who has served on the board for merely three weeks, publicly changed his mind about not supporting the removal of education chief Margie Vandeven.
Greitens’s pick to replace Sumners is expected to be announced before today’s closed-door education board meeting to reportedly fire Vandeven, who has served at the helm since 2015.
The governor’s latest move comes despite a letter signed by 77 Missouri superintendents expressing concern about his efforts to interfere with the board. It also follows a letter sent Sunday from one of Greitens’s four appointees he’s withdrawn recently. Melissa Gelner says the governor’s efforts to “stack the board” and encourage specific board action “abuses the spirit of the Missouri Constitution and disregards the value of the State Board members’ individual thinking.”
Greitens reportedly favors Atlanta charter school advocate Kenneth Zeff in the top state education spot. They worked together at the White House in 2005.
The governor has not specifically explained why he wants Vandeven gone but he did not give glowing remarks about Missouri’s education system during his State of the State address earlier this year.
“We have an education system that ranks near last in every measure that matters,” said Greitens.
Some GOP lawmakers, including Reps. Bruce DeGroot of Chesterfield, Sonya Anderson of Springfield and Phil Christofanelli of St. Peters, back Greitens’s pursuit to take Missouri’s education department in a different direction.
“Missouri’s school system needs change. We’re failing our kids and teachers aren’t getting fair pay. Governor Greitens is fighting to get money away from the bureaucracy and back into classrooms. Many want the status quo. This governor and I aren’t going to stand still for it,” DeGroot said Friday on Twitter.
A bipartisan group of lawmakers and school groups have voiced their support to keep Vandeven around, including Farmington Republican State Sen. Gary Romine, Republican State Reps. Doug Wood of Versailles, Kathy Swan of Cape Girardeau and Lyle Rowland of Cedarcreek. The Missouri School Boards’ Association is also a strong supporter of Vandeven.
State board members could also attempt to replace President Charlie Shields during next week’s regularly scheduled meeting.