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Educational Organizations Voice Concern Governor's Commission Proposal

September 27, 2005
By: Kathryn Buschman
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Two of Missouri's major education organizations have voiced concerns about proposals from the governor's reorganization commission that would give the governor more power over the state's top education officials.

"It seems to me like a move to consolidate power in the governor's office," said Greg Jung, President of the Missouri National Education Association.

Todd Fuller, spokesperson for the Missouri State Teachers Association, said his organization likes the current process a person goes through to become the commissioner of education and did not like the idea of making it an appointed position.

Under the commission's recommendations, the heads of both the state's Higher Education and Education departments would be appointed by the governor -- rather than selected by commissions.

Currently, the commissioner of the Education Department is selected by the state's Board of Education. The Higher Education Department's commissioner is appointed by the Higher Education Coordinating Board.

Changing the appointment-authority for either organization would require a voter-approved constitutional amendment.

"A direct appointment would only seem to politicize the commissioner's role and potentially impact the delicate balance between advocacy and neutrality of a highly diverse system of higher education," wrote Higher Education Commissioner Greg Fitch in a letter to the governor's reorganization commission.

The commission, in a written justification for its proposal, maintained that a gubernatorial appointment would strengthen the leadership of the position and would increase the governor's accountability for public education.

The head of the state's education department said he already enjoys a good relationship with the governor.

"Currently the relationship between us and the governor are very good and we try to work together and that's been historically the way its gone," said Kent King commissioner of elementary and secondary education. "It's not like there's been major problems with that."