Fired Missouri education commissioner gets job back

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COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — Former Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven got her job back Tuesday after scandal-plagued former Gov. Eric Greitens led a successful effort to oust her last year.

State Board of Education members unanimously voted to rehire Vandeven over three other top contenders. She previously served as commissioner from 2015 to 2017, when the state board — then filled with a majority of Greitens' appointees — fired her .

Vandeven's rehiring as state education commission deals a blow to Greitens' legacy during his short time in office. He resigned in June amid personal and political scandal after news organizations reported details about his extramarital affair in 2015 and his use of a charity donor list for his gubernatorial campaign.

Greitens worked for months last year to stack the State Board of Education with sympathetic appointees to oust Vandeven. In Missouri, the governor cannot appoint an education commissioner, but the top executive is responsible for picking the board members who ultimately make that decision.

In seeking Vandeven's removal, Greitens — a vocal supporter of charter schools and other school-choice policies — did not cite any specific actions she took. Instead, he asserted more generally that Missouri's schools need to improve. He contrasted Missouri's low rankings nationally when it comes to teacher pay with school administrators' pay, although those salary decisions are made by local school boards.

When the board fired Vandeven last year, the move brought pushback from both lawmakers and some educators. None of Greitens' appointees were confirmed by the state Senate.

Things changed after new Gov. Mike Parson assumed office and appointed board members who faced less opposition. The new board in September relaunched the search to fill the position.

"Missouri's independent State Board of Education, through their selection process, unanimously chose a new commissioner of education," Parson said in a statement. "Moving forward, we will continue working with Missouri's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to focus efforts on ensuring our students have the skills to succeed and meet the demands of tomorrow's workforce.

Vandeven will return to work on Jan. 2. She is a Missouri native who began her education career as a teacher in the St. Louis suburb of O'Fallon in 1990.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com


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