Missouri's State Board Hasn't Met Since January. With Governor Gone, What Now?
Missouri's state board of education has been at a standstill for almost half a year now since then-Gov. Erik Greitens, a Republican, appointed and later rescinded several highly controversial board members who managed in December to oust state chief Margie Vandeven .
Greitens, a Rhodes scholar and Navy SEAL, resigned this week under political pressure after he was charged with several criminal acts involving an alleged affair.
Early on in his tenure he caused havoc at the state's education department when he appointed several pro-charter school advocates to the state board with the explicit mission of firing the state chief.
The state's district administrators and teaching force backed Vandeven, but failed to politically spare her ousting.
At the beginning of this year's legislative session, Greitens rescinded his appointments in order to allow the state Senate to weigh in. But the Senate dragged its feet on the appointments as Greitens, elected in November 2016, came under political fire for a host of misdeeds.
With only three acting board members, the state board didn't have a quorum to meet and officiate over the state's department. Several things hang in the balance now, including the approval of several charter operators to either open new schools or keep their existing schools open, implementing the state's plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act and, most importantly, hiring a permanent state chief.
"We have a lot of pent-up work because we haven't met since December," said Charlie Shields, one of the remaining board members told the Springfield News-Leader this week. "We weren't able to move education forward in the state."
With Greiten's resignation, Lt. Gov. Mike Parson becomes governor and educators are already reading the tea leaves to see who he will appoint to the now very high-profile board. Greitens has sullied the reputation of the state's Republican Party, and Democrats this fall will likely use education as a wedge issue when several legislative seats are up for election.
"We are optimistic that (Parson) will place a priority on the state board of education," Melissa Randol, the state's executive director of the Missouri School Boards' Association, told the News-Leader. "He understands the significance of the state board."