State Sen. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, is ready to do whatever is necessary to put the brakes on the Missouri Board of Education's decision last week to fire the former commissioner of education — and that includes filibustering

The board fired former education commissioner Margie Vandeven on Friday.

Gov. Eric Greitens, a fellow Republican, has stated publicly that changes need to be made to Missouri's school system, adding that he believes teachers are paid too little and administrators too much.

Although he’s offered few specifics, Greitens and his appointees have made it abundantly clear with last week’s action that Vandeven was not part of the governor’s plans.

Throughout the five years he’s been in the state Senate, Sen. Romine has served as either chairman or vice chairman of the Senate Education Committee, as well as as chairman or vice chairman of the Joint Committee on Education.

“A big portion of my time in Jeff City has been dedicated and committed to education,” he said. “It’s been my primary responsibility since I’ve been there.”

Romine said the biggest concern he and other senators have is that the governor has tried to stack the state board of education to get the vote outcome he desired.

“Even so much so that the last couple of appointees were made at the midnight hour,” Romine said. "[Greitens] withdrew a previous nominee and replaced him with someone else when he realized they were not going to vote the way he wanted. That’s very frustrating that we’ve got a governor that is being this blatant about stacking a state board when they should go through a confirmation process by the state Senate — especially on a decision this significant and the majority of the board being turned over.

"Five of the eight members are newly appointed. I would think to balance the process out that he would take time to allow those five members to be confirmed by the Senate, be officially engaged — and then having had time to work with the commissioner any length of time — to make an informed decision about whether or not to replace her.”

Romine added that, as of now, he doesn’t believe any of the five new appointees are worthy of serving on the Missouri Board of Education.

“They have not had the time to be educated; work with the commissioner and the process; or even been on the board long enough to fully understand what Missouri is doing with their education system right now.”

Romine and other state lawmakers see Greitens' actions as a way to expand charter schools throughout the state of Missouri.

“Charter schools will end up depleting some of the best students, as well as funds — because the funds for charter schools will come out of the public school system,” he said. “We had a Joint Committee on Education meeting during the interim and it was focused on charter schools. Before we can expand any program, if there’s problems with it, they need to be fixed first.

“We do have charter schools in Missouri on a limited basis, but even on that limited basis, they have a higher failure rate than any of our public school systems in the state. That’s a problem. We keep talking about wanting to expand a program that is currently broken and there’s been no effort to really fix it. I have a major concern about that. It’s one of those issues that I think is more urban vs. rural because right now the charter schools that we have are in the urban areas. A need for charter schools in the rural areas has not been shown. There’s been no rational shown for having charter schools in rural areas.”

Central School District Superintendent Desi Mayberry was happy to learn of Romine’s intention to fight the governor’s actions.

“It’s the first that I’ve heard of it,” he said. “Going back to Margie Vandeven’s removal, I think most educators in the state feel like she was doing a good job and had the best interest of our students at heart. I don’t think anyone was happy with that removal because she was very well-supported and respected throughout the state.

“This is an agenda to expand charter schools and if you’ve looked at the Annual Performance Report of charter schools in Missouri, they’re not performing very well. Yet [Greitens] is trying to appoint individuals — and I’m sure he’s going to try to get a commissioner of education — that’s going to try to advance the agenda of charter schools throughout the state. I don’t believe he’s doing this in the best interest of the students in the state.”

Kevin Jenkins is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-518-3614 or kjenkins@dailyjournalonline.com

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