Vote to remove Missouri's education commissioner fails

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Missouri State Board of Education voted not to end the term of the state's education commissioner.

A vote in Jefferson City Tuesday morning ended in a 4-4 tie to remove Margie Vandeven. Another vote could come as soon as the end of the year.

Governor Greitens is trying to oust Vandeven, although he has not elaborated on why. The governor withdrew another appointee Monday from Joplin who had said he would not vote against Vandeven. He appointed Jennifer Edwards of Springfield Tuesday morning for that position on the board.

Eddy Justice, Doug Russell, Sonny Jungmeyer and Jennifer Edwards all voted for the change in leadership. All four were appointed to the board by Greitens.

According to the minutes released by the State School Board from Tuesday morning's vote, Greitens' fifth appointed member, Claudia Oñate Greim, of Kansas City, joined the three members who were not appointed by Greitens to deadlock the vote 4-4.

Statement from Governor Eric Greitens:
“Let me tell you why we're fighting so hard for kids and teachers in Missouri. Today, the system works for insiders and bureaucrats who get paid real well, but it fails too many students, families, and teachers. We know insiders and bureaucrats will lie. You deserve to know the facts. Here's a lie: Missourians don't give enough tax money to schools. Here are the facts: Missourians spend about the national average on our schools. I support public schools, and our team supports public schools. We made education a priority. We put more money into schools than ever before in Missouri history. We fully funded K-12 education for the first time in years, and we added $64.6 million to the K-12 budget. Where did that money go? Bureaucrats took it. In our schools, we've got too many bureaucrats. We’re top ten in the country for our number of school administrators. And they’re well paid. In fact, in Missouri, administrator pay has been increasing more than twice as fast as teacher pay. Several administrators make more than $250,000.00 a year. Six figures. That money should go into the classroom. It should go to teachers. Our teachers deserve to get paid more. Missouri is ranked 40th in the country in teacher pay. Our pay for starting teachers: 48th in the country. Third worst in the nation. Our teachers deserve better. Our students also deserve better. Here's a lie: The bureaucrats say our schools are doing just fine, that there's no need for change. Here are the facts: We need to support teachers, because our schools have been getting worse. From 2009 to 2015, Missouri fell from 18th to 28th in fourth-grade reading and from 23rd to 32nd in eighth-grade math. In fact, even if they graduate, according to ACT testing, three out of every four Missouri kids aren't fully ready for college. Education Week gave Missouri a D+ for K-12 achievement. This year, we put more money into education than ever before—but the bureaucrats cut the ACT for high schoolers. These aren't opinions. They are facts. Schools should serve kids. Our kids and families deserve better. They deserve the truth. Here’s why bureaucrats are lying: they’re desperate to prevent change. If things change and people start asking hard questions, they will have to provide clear answers.

Question: This year, Missouri’s schools got more money than ever before, so how come teachers didn’t get a bigger raise? Where did the money go?

Question: How come our administrator pay has been rising more than twice as fast as teacher pay?

These are the facts. These are the questions that need to be asked. There are a lot of people committed to the status quo. They've been willing to harass and intimidate anyone who stands up to them. That won't stop us from doing what's right. We're fighting to get results for Missouri teachers and students.”

Springfield Schools Superintendent John Jungmann provided the following response:

"Today, four members of the Missouri State Board of Education took a brave stand in defense of public education in Missouri. By doing so, these members provided a rebuke of Governor Greitens’ attempt to undermine the state’s constitution and the independence of the board’s governing authority.

Unfortunately, instead of embracing this opportunity to reach out to the education community to explore options for moving forward in a non-partisan, collaborative manner, Governor Greitens has chosen to malign and vilify those entrusted to help shape our children’s futures. Our teachers, principals, district leaders and school board members are not bureaucrats – they are champions who show up every day, passionately pursuing student success. These talented, heroic educators are not protectors of the status quo – they work hand-in-hand with our community to expand opportunities for our 25,000 students. These remarkable citizens should be praised for their public service, not attacked by their governor.

Sadly, such negativity and divisiveness have become default responses for many politicians who seek reform without engaging the experts who understand reality. If Governor Greitens would take the time to reach out, he would understand that there is nothing ‘status quo’ about Springfield Public Schools. Thanks to support from business leaders and community volunteers, doors to new opportunities are opening for students through programs like GO CAPS and Explore. These experiences are designed to make education more engaging, relevant and personal – for every learner, every day.

We understand that Governor Greitens is angry that his attempted coup of the Missouri State Board of Education failed today. Nevertheless, our invitation to engage with him continues to be extended. To date, Governor Greitens has refused to answer our invitation to visit Springfield Public Schools or respond to our requests to be included in policy conversations. It is our hope that Governor Greitens will decide to visit Missouri’s classrooms, which serve 900,000 public school students. Accepting our invitation would help Governor Greitens learn about the unique challenges that teachers and students face. Such a visit would also be an opportunity to join us in celebrating the many things that are going well.

Please visit our school district, Governor Greitens. The time for engagement is now."

State Senate Democratic Leader Gina Walsh released a statement:
“Backroom deals and hostile takeovers are the kind of Washington D.C. schemes that Gov. Greitens has brought home to Missouri. Commissioner Vandeven has achieved real results for the taxpayers of this state, which is why she’s so highly regarded by folks of every political stripe. Thankfully, four State Board of Education members had the courage to stand up for Missouri’s school children and refused to be forced into a bad deal by Gov. Greitens. Missouri’s public schools have made tremendous improvements under Commissioner Vandeven, and I look forward to seeing those successes continue with her at the helm.”

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