Governor Eric Greitens’ months-long plan to replace state Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven fell apart on Tuesday. A tie vote yesterday by the Missouri Board of Education allows Vandeven to keep her job – at least for now.
About 60 people, mostly men in suits, snaked around the hallways and lobby outside of the meeting to learn the fate of Vandeven. Applause sounded when Vandeven walked into and exited the meeting and when members of the crowd learned the education leader remains at the helm.
Board members Eddy Justice, Doug Russell, Sonny Jungmeyer and Jennifer Edwards voted for the leadership change. President Charlie Shields, Vice President Vic Lenz, Mike Jones and Claudia Oñate Greim voted against the motion.
Jones said the education community must remain vigilant.
“If the parents and educators in the state of Missouri relax, I think they’ll make another country play,” said Jones. “I think the right side has prevailed but I don’t think we’ve resolved anything.”
Greitens has been appointing and later withdrawing appointees who don’t go along with his change in leadership plan. A last-minute swap came late Monday afternoon when he revoked the appointment of Tim Sumners of Joplin. Jennifer Edwards of Springfield, a longtime advocate to help those with dyslexia, replaced Sumners minutes before Tuesday’s closed-door meeting. Sumners, who served all of three weeks, still showed up to the meeting to share his thoughts.
An argument is being raised about whether the way the governor handled those withdrawals is legal. House Democrats say Greitens cannot remove appointees without written notice and a hearing on charges of malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance in office. President Charlie Shields thinks the issue will be settled by the courts.
A statement from Greitens after the board’s vote indicates that Vandeven’s supporters might have won the battle but he appears to be gearing up for another conflict. He says $64.6 million dollars was added to the K-12 education budget this fiscal year and “bureaucrats” took that money.
“We’re top ten in the country for our number of school administrators. In fact, in Missouri, administrator pay has been increasing more than twice as fast as teacher pay. Several administrators make more than $250,000.00 a year,” says Greitens. “That money should go into the classroom. It should go to teachers. Our teachers deserve to get paid more. Missouri is ranked 40th in the country in teacher pay. There are a lot of people committed to the status quo. They’ve been willing to harass and intimidate anyone who stands up to them. That won’t stop us from doing what’s right. We’re fighting to get results for Missouri teachers and students.”
A reoccurring theme throughout Tuesday and even before then has been a plea to the governor from education officials and advocates. They say the missing link throughout this process has been an open line of communication and working together with the Greitens Administration to move education forward for Missouri’s children.
Things to watch out for:
*The length of time Greitens appointee Claudia Onate Greim, a self-proclaimed Democrat, will stick around.
*The board has all of its Republican seats filled by appointees. Whomever the governor would choose to possibly replace Onate Greim could not be a “Republican”.
*The board meets again Dec. 1. A sequel to the drama could make a return that day.
*The Missouri Senate’s Education Committee Chairman, Republican Gary Romine of Farmington, told the Kansas City Star that the governor’s Board of Education appointments “will not survive the confirmation process.”