School Voucher Fight Heats Up
Laurie Spate-Smith, an English teacher at Jefferson Junior High School and a member of Missouri's National Education Association, doesn't support the governor's nomination of Whitmore-Smith to the state board.
"To put somebody on the state board that's pro-vouchers is sort of like putting a fox in with the chickens," said Spate-Smith. "I see Ms. Whitmore-Smith as an adversary to public education. It's an overall climate change toward that initiative, and I think it's bad, bad for Missouri's public schools."
Whitmore-Smith is the director of a group called School Choice Missouri and she started a private school, PTAH Academy in St. Louis, that failed. She also testified this fall before a Missouri House special committee on school choice.
"He is a little surprised by how much opposition has come up," said Brian Hauswirth, the governor's spokesman.
The opposition is mainly from the Missouri School Boards Association and the American Federation of Teachers, members of the Missouri Education Roundtable.
"We're very concerned, she has a long history of supporting issues such as vouchers and tuition tax credits," said MER spokesman Brent Ghan.
"That's something we're totally against, as well as the whole education community within the state," added Scott Ciafullo of the teacher federation. "This is the first time the roundtable has come out against a nomination. We are disappointed because the woman has not had a hearing yet."
The Missouri Senate still needs to vote on Whitmore-Smith's nomination. Her appointment hinges on support from her state senator, Jeff Smith of St. Louis, who has not publicly endorsed her. If Smith does not support her, Gov. Blunt said Thursday he'll withdraw Whitmore-Smith's nomination.
Donayle Whitmore-Smith did not return phone calls from KOMU News, but she recently told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "I'm not there to destroy public schools nor am I there to say that I'm no longer open to choice."