That’s quite a strategy, governor: Get what you want. And to heck with the rules, honesty or fair play.
This is not how any governor should attend to public education in his state.
For weeks now, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens has repeatedly taken pages out of the playbook of dirty politics with the goal of shoving Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven off the state board.
Friday, Greitens finally succeeded. The board ousted Vandeven in a closed-door 5-3 vote.
A new pawn in the governor’s scheme, former Raytown alderman Eric Teeman, was installed on the board shortly before the vote. A seat opened up when Claudia Onate Greim suddenly announced her resignation late in the day Thursday.
There’s little doubt that her decision was made under duress. Greim, in her resignation letter, rightly noted that removing a state leader as important as the education commissioner should be done after thoughtful, independent study. She’d previously cast a vote to retain Vandeven, stalling the firing at 4-4.
Teeman provided the fifth vote needed to send Vandeven packing.
The last-minute maneuvers came after weeks of other questionable moves by Greitens to pack the board, presumably with people willing to show Vandevens the door. The governor made filling board seats a game of musical chairs, appointing 10 people for the eight seats, engaging those willing to do his bidding.
Along the way, a lawsuit was filed, questioning Greitens’ decision to kick a new appointee off the board before he was even confirmed after it became clear that John T. Sumners of Joplin wasn’t going to take his marching orders from the governor.
After all this turmoil, Greitens quickly stepped up to take a victory lap on Friday. In a statement he claimed a win for kids, teachers and families.
How so, governor? From the start, you’ve been pretty vague about what this is all about anyway.
Tell us, what is the plan? What was so wrong with how Vandeven and the other board members have performed their duties?
So far, you’ve offered little beyond vague comments about helping students succeed and supporting schools. Do you really want Missourians to just make assumptions, based on the fact that you accepted a lot of cash from national school-choice proponents?
Vandeven politely framed the matter when she noted, with sadness, that public education should not be politicized.
It’s fine, Gov. Greitens, if you want to put your choice for education commissioner in place. But play fair, and tell your constituents what you’re aiming to accomplish. Don’t rely on an elaborate political play to circumvent good government practices.
The whole debacle is a sad statement on Greitens’ disrespect for process, for the voters of Missouri and mostly, for all children enrolled in public schools.