VACANCY PUTS STATE DESE CONTROL IN GREITENS’ REACH
Turnover continued on the Missouri State Board of Education when Democrat Joe Driskill resigned on Nov. 9 with more than six and a half years remaining on his term. Driskill’s unexpected departure makes it possible for Republican Gov. Eric Greitens to appoint a majority on the eight-member board much earlier than expected.
Since late July, Greitens has been attempting to take control of the state school board in order to oust respected K-12 education Commissioner Margie Vandeven, who oversees the day-to-day operations at the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Greitens has already made four appointments to the board, but doing so took him seven tries. One Greitens’ appointees turned out to be legally ineligible to serve, the governor removed a second when she refused to support his plan to fire Vandeven and a third quickly declined the appointment for undisclosed reasons.
Unlike most state departments, which are under the governor’s direct control, DESE is governed by a constitutionally independent board, and the governor has no supervision over its leadership or operations. But by quickly appointing a majority of the board members willing to follow his directives, Greitens, a charter school advocate, could exercise an unprecedented degree of influence over DESE and state education policy.
Driskill has held a variety of posts during a long career in state government, including serving director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development and being elected to six terms in the House of the Representatives. In announcing his resignation from the state school board, on which he had served since January 2014, Driskill said he needed more time to focus on his job as state military advocate, a post he started last year.
VOTERS FILL THREE VACANT LEGISLATIVE SEATS
Voters filled three vacant legislative seats on Nov. 7, electing a new state senator in eastern Jackson County plus state representatives in Kansas City and the Bootheel. All three people chosen in those special elections will have to run again next November for full terms
House Minority Leader Mike Cierpiot, R-Lee’s Summit, was elected to serve the final year remaining on the 8th District Senate term. In the House special elections, Democrat Barbara Anne Washington was chosen in the 26th District, representing part of Kansas City, while Republican Herman Morse was elected in the 151st District, representing Stoddard County and part of Scott County in Southeast Missouri.
Cierpiot’s move to the Senate opens up another vacancy in the House, for a total of four. Special elections to fill some of those vacancies, all previously held by Republicans, already are scheduled for Feb. 6, and Cierpiot’s seat likely will be added to the list.