Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ political ambition and strong-arm tactics have struck again, this time to the detriment of hundreds of thousands of the state’s schoolchildren.
For months, Greitens has worked to replace Missouri Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. He’s pursued her dismissal despite the fact that a majority of teachers, administrators, and elected school board members appear to support her work.
Vandeven is considered a strong supporter of public education. That irritates Greitens, and U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who supports school choice and charter schools.
DeVos and other school choice supporters gave Greitens $370,000 for his 2016 gubernatorial campaign. That’s a debt the governor wants to repay.
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After several false starts, Greitens has now appointed five interim members to the board. If all five vote in lockstep with the governor, Vandeven would lose her job.
Some of those new school board members have requested a special meeting — Nov. 21 is the expected date. It’s believed they’ll try to remove Vandeven.
Greitens may have a replacement already in mind. In August, he used campaign funds to bring a man named Kenneth Zeff to the state. Zeff once worked in charter school management and is an advocate for charter schools.
So the fix is in.
Some Missourians are resisting the governor’s power play. Advocacy groups for public education have issued statements, urging him to slow down.
We share their view. There is no legitimate reason Vandeven must step down now.
The state can clearly wait until January, when the state Senate can consider all five interim nominations to the state board. If those picks are confirmed, members could then reasonably decide if they wants to replace Vandeven.
Greitens has no interest in such a delay, and we know why: It’s almost certain that the state Senate will reject his nominees. Senators in both parties do not like the governor.
So Greitens and his allies are trying to ram through the Vandeven dismissal and replacement now, at the end of 2017. They want to circumvent the people’s representatives to fire a public servant for political reasons.
Losing the chance to install a charter-school booster in Missouri won’t make Secretary DeVos, or her friends, happy. That’s a bad outcome if you’re Greitens, and you want to be president.
To his credit, at least one Greitens interim appointment now says he thinks the board is moving too quickly. We hope his colleagues agree.
Greitens cares about Greitens, and the White House. This latest bully-boy episode is further proof of that.