Gov. Eric Greitens’ clumsy efforts to replace the state’s respected education commissioner, Margie Vandeven, hit the latest of three obstacles when one of his State Board of Education nominees declined the governor’s appointment. Greitens was trying to replace a board member who says she was forced off the board after refusing to knuckle under to pressure from a Greitens aide to oust Vandeven.
Greitens’ attempt to politicize education by securing a majority of supporters on the eight-member, bipartisan board deserved the ridicule it received from longtime St. Louis board member Mike Jones, who labeled the latest bid “an amateur performance.” Jones said he doesn’t know why Greitens wants to get rid of Vandeven, who he said is well-regarded and has improved elementary and secondary education opportunities.
That’s the crux of the issue. Why does the governor want to replace someone with a proven record, who is respected by educators, simply so he can install his own choice? Performance on the job apparently isn’t a criterion. Greitens seems to want a commissioner blindly dedicated to a national Republican education agenda that gives budgetary priority to school choice over strengthening public education.
The board selects the education commissioner for grades K-12 and helps establish education policy. It also defines testing requirements, accredits school districts, sets teacher certification rules, oversees school operations and makes budget recommendations. There can be no more than four members from the same political party on the board.
The board is designed to be fairly independent and removed from partisan politics. The governor can appoint members who likely share his perspective on education, but it’s understood that the board is not an arm of the state executive’s office.
(Excerpted from St. Louis Post Dispatch 9/20/17