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Lack of quorum delaying search for next Missouri education commissioner

File | Marshall Griffin | St. Louis Public Radio
The three current members of the State Board of Education, l-r: Victor Lenz, Jr., Charlie Shields, and Mike Jones. To their right are three of the five seats vacated when Gov. Eric Greitens withdrew his appointees from the Board.

The search has begun for Missouri’s next education commissioner, even though there currently aren’t enough board members to vote on hiring Margie Vandeven’s successor.

Ten people applied for the job by Monday’s deadline. But Board of Education President Charlie Shields said they can’t even review their applications until there are at least five voting members on the State Board.

“It’s really hard to see how the process moves forward until we have a quorum of the Board,” Shields said.

The only thing the State Education Board can do right now is hold public hearings. It held one on Monday, taking input from the public on what qualifications they think the next commissioner should have. Several who testified suggested that the ideal candidate should “have an open mind” and not be committed to a political agenda.

The Board lost its quorum when Gov. Eric Greitens withdrew all five of his appointees and resubmitted them. The Board can’t vote on anything unless the Senate approves at least two more members.

That doesn’t appear like it will happen soon, especially if Greitens is intent on trying to get the five members that ousted Vandeven confirmed.

Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, is one of numerous senators threatening to block any attempt of approving Gov. Eric Greitens' nominees to the Missouri Board of Education.
Credit Jason Rosenbaum I St. Louis Public Radio
Sen. Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, is one of numerous senators threatening to block any attempt of approving Gov. Eric Greitens' nominees to the Missouri Board of Education.

Sens. Gary Romine, R-Farmington, and Rob Schaaf, R-St. Joseph, made it clear that they’ll fight any attempt to confirm those nominees.

“These nominees, I will be opposing them to the fullest extent of my ability,” Schaaf said last week. “Probably, the chances of them being confirmed is near zero.”

Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard, R-Joplin, made it clear he’s not happy with how Greitens acted here. But Richard told reporters last Thursday that he’s hesitant to vote down the interim nominees — primarily because they would be forever barred from serving on the board of education.

“I don’t know if I can avoid that, but I would hate to have someone banned for life — whoever they are on any board or commission,” Richard said. “There are a lot of quiet people who haven’t made up their mind. And that’s why I want them to have time to think about it, because there may be [a majority]  that want a quorum. But let’s just see. … I thought the best thing to do is dial it down and let’s take a deep breath here.”

There are a couple of resolutions: Greitens could offer up five new board of education nominees. Or, as Schaaf pointed out, Greitens could ultimately reappoint the five current appointees to the board after session ends — if the Senate votes to send them back.

“[Greitens] can send a letter to the Pro Tem and say ‘please send them back,’” Schaaf said last week. “But it actually takes a motion of the Senate to send those [nominations] back. Here’s the problem: If we send those back, then there would be nothing stopping the governor from on day after the end of session of reappointing them.”

Follow Marshall on Twitter: @MarshallGReport

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

Marshal was a political reporter for St. Louis Public Radio until 2018.
Jason is the politics correspondent for St. Louis Public Radio.