Governor Greitens Ouster of Education Commissioner Draws Criticism
A series of appointments and then withdrawn appointments to the Missouri State Board of Education by Governor Eric Greitens inevitably resulted in the outcome he sought which was the firing of Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. Critics are accusing the republican governor of a power grab.
The board voted 5-3 Friday to remove Vandeven, a day after Greitens appointed Eric Teeman, who joined four other Greitens appointees in the ouster vote. The governor called the vote “a major step in the right direction” toward improving education in Missouri.
Critics, including the Legislature’s two most powerful Democrats, released statements accusing Greitens of stacking a board that is supposed to be independent.
Senate Democratic Leader Gina Walsh says Missourians who care about schools should be outraged. House Minority Leader Gail McCann Beatty called the ouster “the worst abuse of political power by a Missouri governor in living memory.”
Two previous appointees are taking action against the governor. A Springfield teacher is suing the Missouri Board of Education over a closed session it held during the controversy over removing Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven.
In a lawsuit filed Tuesday, November 28th, Laurie Sullivan alleged the board violated the state’s open meetings law by holding a closed meeting Nov. 21 to discuss Vandeven’s future.
Tim Sumners of Joplin and Missy Gelner of Springfield were appointed and then removed from the board by Gov. Greitens. He appointed Jennifer Edwards hours before the Nov. 21 meeting. Sumners and Gelner participated in the closed meeting but only Edwards was able to vote.
Sullivan’s lawsuit contends Sumners and Gelner were not properly removed from the board. Sumners on has also sued Greitens to challenge his removal from the board.
John Sumners suit is asking a Cole County court to determine if he remains a board member and whether the governor broke the law by rescinding his appointment earlier this month. Sumners alleges that the governor’s staff pressured him to vote in favor of the removal of current Vandeven.
Sumners suit names the governor and the woman picked to replace Sumners, Jennifer Edwards of Springfield.