After weeks of escalating tensions, undercutting lawmakers and playing bare-knuckle politics, Gov. Eric Greitens finally turned down the temperature in the battle over the board governing public schools in Missouri.
The governor’s latest maneuver — yanking his five nominees to the Missouri Board of Education and then quickly reappointing them — is a calculated move that actually could create an opportunity to reach a compromise.
Greitens started this pitched battle by appointing five members to the board who were unlikely ever to be confirmed by the Senate and orchestrating the ouster of the state’s top education official. The governor appointed and removed members until he patched together enough votes to oust the now former education commissioner, Margie Vandeven.
Greitens went to great lengths to cut lawmakers out of this process. And not surprisingly, some senators made clear they would block his appointees after the General Assembly convened this week.
Now the question is whether Greitens and senators can find a way to cooperate and eventually confirm new members to the Missouri State Board of Education. In the interim, important education issues will be left unaddressed.
For now, the eight-person board can’t muster a quorum with its three remaining members. So, the board’s work will grind to a halt. And the search for Vandeven’s replacement will stall.
Greitens may have no intention of working with senators on a new slate of nominees. But he has an opportunity to do right by the state and partner with lawmakers in his own party. Sens. Rob Schaaf of St. Joseph and Gary Romine of Farmington, both Republicans, also will be key in forging a path forward.
Schaaf tweeted this slap at Greitens last month: “If the Soiled Seal of Missouri has half a brain, he’ll withdraw his latest School Board appointments prior to their deadline for confirmation!”
Romine, who heads the Senate Education Committee, urged Greitens to make five new picks Thursday, warning that the Senate would not confirm the nominees who tossed Vandeven to the curb.
While Greitens and lawmakers regroup, other educational matters will be left in limbo, including the board’s role in setting academic performance standards and assessment requirements for schools. And although the board does not oversee colleges and universities, it governs career and technical education programs offered by school districts, community colleges and four-year institutions.
Missouri can’t afford to press pause on education issues for several months while elected officials try to outmaneuver one another. Greitens and lawmakers must reach a truce and get the board of education back up to full strength.