Work to pick new Missouri education leader stalls
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Efforts to pick Missouri’s next top education official after a controversial shake-up in leadership ground to a halt Wednesday after a technical move by the governor left the board without enough voting members to choose a replacement.
In an unusual move, Greitens repealed and then resubmitted his five State Board of Education appointees shortly after the Wednesday start of the 2018 legislative session. Appointees named during session cannot serve until they’re confirmed by the Senate, which means the eight-member board no longer has a quorum to vote.
That effectively stalls the selection of a new education commissioner.
Greitens in a statement said he resubmitted the appointees to give senators more time to consider them for confirmation; senators now have all session instead of a 30-day deadline.
But their confirmations still appear at risk amid backlash over Greitens’ role in the firing of the former education commissioner, Margie Vandeven.
“Those appointees are probably going to need some time, if I decide to give them a hearing,” Republican Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard said during a Wednesday press conference.
Greitens worked for months to appoint new members to the State Board of Education in an effort to replace Vandeven. His appointees finally succeeded in ousting her last month.
In seeking Vandeven’s removal, Greitens — a vocal supporter of charter schools and other school-choice policies — has not cited any specific actions she took, but has asserted more generally that Missouri’s schools need to improve. He particularly has contrasted Missouri’s low rankings nationally when it comes to teacher pay with the “big bucks” paid to school administrators, but those salary decisions are made by local school boards.
Vandeven’s ouster drew strong criticism from her supporters in the education community and some lawmakers, who praised her work. The issue boiled up almost immediately after lawmakers returned to the Capitol for the annual legislative session.
Republican Sens. Rob Schaaf and Gary Romine, who have butted heads with the governor before, publicly criticized Greitens and said they would block his education board appointees.
“I will be opposing them to the fullest extent of my ability, and I think that’s a pretty good extent,” Schaaf said to Romine on the Senate floor. “And with you also feeling the same way, probably the chance of them being confirmed is near zero.”
Richard, who leads the Senate appointments committee, said the board appointments “could have been handled better.” He stressed the importance of protecting the Senate’s role in reviewing gubernatorial appointments.