Missouri State Chief Fired in What Supporter Calls ‘Political Power Grab’

By Daarel Burnette II — December 04, 2017 2 min read
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Last week’s firing of State Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven by the state board of education culminated in a politically and legally frought process that has enraged the state’s teachers and school admininstrators.

The governor-appointed board voted Friday 5-3 to fire Vandeven. She had been paid $191,544. The board appointed the state’s Deputy Commissioner Roger Dorson will serve as interim education commissioner until it can find a permanent leader.

Greitens, a charter school and voucher supporter, has in the last several months appointed to the state board five members he hoped would vote to fire Vandeven.

But after at least two of those board members said after their confirmation hearings that they would not vote to fire Vandeven, Greitens rescinded his appointments, a process the state’s Democrats questioned the legality of.

At least one of the recently appointed board members has sued to be placed back on the board. Friday’s vote took place minutes after the confirmation of Greitens’ most recent appointment to the board.

Greitens said on Friday he wanted to reduce administrative overhead costs, increase teacher pay and “support public schools.”

“Today, kids, teacher, and families won,” Greitens said in a statement, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Vandeven was hired in January 2015 under former Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon . During her tenure she revised the way the state rates its teaching colleges and universities, helped restore the accreditation of St. Louis and Riverview Gardens districts, and designed the state’s accountability plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is now under review by the federal department of education.

“The removal of Dr. Vandeven is completely without merit, and anyone who cares about Missouri’s schools should be outraged,” Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh said to the Post-Dispatch. “Dr. Vandeven challenged the status quo and got real results for Missouri students, teachers, and taxpayers. It’s a shame to see her ousted by the governor in a political power grab.”

“Commissioner Vandeven has been a champion for Missouri’s children and a tireless advocate for improving education, including how we prepare future classroom teachers and meet the needs of our most vulnerable students,” said Chris Minnich, the outgoing executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO).

The average tenure of state chiefs is down to a little more than two years, causing concern among policy makers and advocates seeking stability in the roiling debates over school choice, testing and standards.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.