GUEST COLUMN: Governor Greitens Strikes Again: Now He’s after the Education Commissioner

Earlier this year Governor Greitens unfairly painted a picture of our part-time state legislators as “being on vacation” after the 2017 legislative session ended. Now he absurdly blames “bureaucrats” for falling English and Math score in Missouri schools. And his scapegoat is Education Commissioner Margie Vandeven. After stacking the MO Board of Ed with unconfirmed nominees, last week he tried and failed to force them to fire her. And he is apparently going to have another go at her this Friday.

When justifying the Commissioner’s removal by complaining about falling test scores, the Governor doesn’t bother to mention that the state of Missouri has been underfunding its K-12 schools for years. Funding for our children’s education has not kept pace with inflation, so of course our scores have gone down.

And, to add insult to injury, instead of actually funding our public schools the way they promised, in 2016 our Republican-led state legislature simply decided to change the law, magically erasing the hundreds of millions of dollars the state owed to our schools with a “recalculation,” lowering the fully funded amount from $6716 per student to $6214 per student.

I would argue that our schools are functioning exceptionally well under this kind of financial strain. Especially when low-income neighborhoods have suffered the most with a stagnant economy and budget cuts.

If you pay attention to Greiten’s travel schedule, you’ll notice that after his numerous meetings, photo ops, or dinners with elite Big Wigs in DC and across the country, he returns to Missouri like a soldier sent into battle by his big money commanders. He does his best to eradicate anyone who stands in the way of whatever mission he has been given by the power players from outside our state – be it lowering the minimum wage or passing laws that essentially protect businesses who discriminate against workers based on race, religion, or disability.

Not only does the Governor follow the direction of anti-public education donors from outside our state as he eyes a Presidential run, he keeps trying to push this vote through the Missouri Board of Education while several board members haven’t even been confirmed by the Missouri Senate. This is undemocratic and is disrespectful to our elected officials and to us, the voters they represent.

Worse, if his appointees to the Board don’t vote the way he wants them to, he immediately replaces them. Apparently the Governor wants a puppet state government to simply follow his orders instead of doing what’s right for our children.

I applaud Claudia Onate Greim for her vote last week, when she did not follow orders, and instead considered the welfare of our students. This allowed our Education Commissioner to keep her job. Sadly, the Governor will probably just replace her the way he replaced Melissa Gelner from Springfield and John T. Sumners from Joplin before her.

When so many of the Governor’s own appointees – who took the job knowing they would be tasked with replacing the commissioner – decide not to do just that, you know it’s a bad idea. Perhaps once they learned that ousting Vandeven is wrong-headed and not good for our state, they decided they could not in good conscience vote the way the Governor wants. I applaud their moral convictions.

It’s no wonder the Governor dines in Michigan with Betsy DeVos and other political donors. It’s no wonder he wants to rid Missouri of the person safeguarding our public schools to help DeVos. She is a reliable donor – who contributed $40,000 to his 2016 campaign and who publicly admits “We do expect something in return. We expect a return on our investment.”

The Governor hypocritically blames “insiders and bureaucrats who get paid real well” but fail too many students. All the while, he’s working on behalf of Betsy DeVos – one of the biggest, richest “insiders” in Washington and the biggest bureaucrat there is in the system today. For her and other elites who share her agenda, he will undermine our public schools. This is tyranny.

What can we do? The Governor has responded to pressure when cutting funding from foster families and a few other issues. It’s time to let him know – this week at (573) 751-3222, or at the next election – that our education system is not for sale.

Governor Greitens puts on a good show for the media, but he delivers for donors – not for Missouri.

You can also contact the Governor on his website at:
https://governor.mo.gov/get-involved/contact-the-governors-office

Helena Webb
Helena is a working mom who is interested in economic justice and true solutions to our economic problems.
Ballwin, MO

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