States

Minn. Senate Democrats Dump Yecke as Education Chief

By Darcia Harris Bowman — May 26, 2004 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Cheri Pierson Yecke has lost her job as Minnesota’s education commissioner.

In a 35-31 vote along party lines, the Democratic-controlled state Senate rejected Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s choice for education chief at 3:40 a.m. on May 16. Deputy Commissioner of Education Chas Anderson immediately became the acting commissioner.

In a telephone interview two days after the vote, Ms. Yecke still sounded stunned by the decision, as did members of her former staff who were fielding calls at the state education department last week.

“We are so shocked,” Ms. Yecke said. “We had a deal with three Democrats who pledged to vote for me. We had a pledge from the [Senate Democratic leader, Dean Elton Johnson] not to take this to the floor unless they had the votes to confirm.”

Sen. Johnson’s office did not return phone calls seeking comment.

Gov. Pawlenty lashed out at Senate Democrats in a statement issued the day of the vote for “doing a great disservice to our state.”

“By rejecting Commissioner Yecke on a party-line vote,” he said, “they have rejected innovation and accountability for our education system.”

Polarizing Figure

The state constitution places no deadlines on the Senate for confirming executive appointments, so Ms. Yecke had 15 months on the job before being fired—time enough to became a polarizing figure.

Starting at a time when the state was struggling with a $4.5 billion budget deficit, she worked to bring the state into compliance with the federal No Child Left Behind law and ushered in a set of new educational standards. She also released a controversial book about the failings of U.S. middle schools.

Foes cast Ms. Yecke as an archconservative bent on carrying out the will of the Bush administration, for which she previously worked, while supporters said she was easily the most qualified person to ever fill the state’s top education post. (“Minn. Education Commissioner Fighting for Confirmation,” April 7, 2004.)

From her home in Blaine, Minn., last week, Ms. Yecke hinted that she doesn’t plan to be out of work long. Immediately before being tapped for state education chief by Gov. Pawlenty, the 49-year-old was the U.S. Department of Education’s director of teacher quality and public school choice, where she focused on the impact of the No Child Left Behind law.

“I received a very nice call from [U.S. Secretary of Education Rod] Paige and I’ve had several think tanks contact me already, so I’m reviewing my options,” she said.

Officials in the governor’s office said last week that he had no immediate plans for replacing Ms. Yecke with another appointee.

A version of this article appeared in the May 26, 2004 edition of Education Week as Minn. Senate Democrats Dump Yecke as Education Chief

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

States How States Are Testing the Church-State Divide in Public Schools
A new order to teach the Bible in Oklahoma is the latest action to fuel debate over the presence of religion in schools.
7 min read
Image of a bible sitting on top of a school backpack.
Canva
States Lawsuit Challenges Louisiana's New Ten Commandments Law
Opponents argue that the law is a violation of separation of church and state and will isolate students.
3 min read
A copy of the Ten Commandments is posted along with other historical documents in a hallway of the Georgia Capitol, Thursday, June 20, 2024, in Atlanta. Civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit Monday, June 24, challenging Louisiana’s new law that requires the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom.
A copy of the Ten Commandments is posted along with other historical documents in a hallway of the Georgia Capitol, Thursday, June 20, 2024, in Atlanta. Civil liberties groups filed a lawsuit Monday, June 24, challenging Louisiana’s new law that requires the Ten Commandments to be displayed in every public school classroom.
John Bazemore/AP
States The Surprising Contenders for State Superintendent Offices This Year
Two elections for the top education leadership job feature candidates who have never worked in public schools.
8 min read
North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler announces the gathering of a task force to look into future options the state has for the assessment of students during a press conference May 8, 2015, at the state Capitol in Bismarck, N.D.
North Dakota Superintendent of Public Instruction Kirsten Baesler announces the gathering of a task force to look into future options for student assessment during a press conference May 8, 2015, in Bismarck, N.D. Baesler, the nation's longest-serving state schools chief, is running for a fourth term, facing opponents with no experience serving in public schools.
Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP
States Does a Ten Commandments Display in Classrooms Violate the Constitution?
Louisiana is poised to become the first state to require all schools to post the Ten Commandments in classrooms.
7 min read
Human hand holding a magnifying glass over open holy bible book of Exodus verses for Ten Commandments, top view
Marinela Malcheva/iStock/Getty