Despite growing criticism, Nixon says he and Nicastro “share the same goals”

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 9.09.15 PMCOLUMBIA, Mo. – Even as more of his own political allies join in on criticism of Commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Chris Nicastro, Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon on Wednesday declined to express any opposition.

“The commissioner and I share the same goal: Making sure every Missouri student has access to a world-class education that prepares them for good jobs. The first thing you look at is whether or not folks in high positions share the same goals, and I’m confident that she shares those goals,” Nixon said, appearing to read from a prepared answer.

He went on to add, “in order to accomplish those goals, the commissioner needs the confidence of teacher and other education groups, and I’ve said that I thought the state board should continue to monitor and evaluate at the concerns that have been raised. You’re leading large groups of folks and they need to be involved in the process. There are a lot of things going on to deal with the issues that are out there.”

Nicastro has been under fire from progressive groups and even a growing number of Democratic lawmakers for allegedly working with an out-of-state consultant in favor establishing a statewide district for failing schools and expanding charter schools. It was previously revealed that Nicastro had been working with an activist organization backed by billionaire Rex Sinquefield seeking to place an anti-teacher tenure measure on the ballot.

Last week, Nixon called on the State Board of Education to evaluate Nicastro’s performance, but has not joined members of his party in their calls for her to step aside. Prior to that, the State Board had come to Nicastro’s defense in response to both charges – expressing full confidence in her performance.

On Wednesday, Esther Haywood, president of the St. Louis County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, expressed her dissatisfaction in Nicastro and called on her to step aside in a letter to the editor in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.

“With all the issues that plague our local schools, we need someone that is in our corner, not a traitor seeking personal gains from special interest and corporations,” Haywood wrote. “[T]here is a traitor among us. Join the NAACP and other groups in asking Nicastro to step aside and allow Missouri’s public schools to move forward.”

Sixteen Democratic lawmakers – including Sens. Paul LeVota, Independence, and Maria Chappelle-Nadal, St. Louis – have expressed disapproval with Nicastro for working with the outside groups and have called for her resignation.