Missouri’s Next Education Department Chief Will Be a Republican Senator With Roots in The Classroom

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — The next head of Missouri’s education department will be Republican state Sen. Karla Eslinger, a former teacher, principal and school district superintendent whose first day on the job will be in mid-2024, officials said Tuesday.

Eslinger will remain as a state senator through the 2024 legislative session before taking over as commissioner of the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education effective June 1, according to a news release from the state. The current commissioner, Margie Vandeven, announced in October that she would leave the post in June.

“I’m certain my future would look very different if not for my public school education,” Eslinger said in the release. “Children across Missouri depend on our schools in this same way, and I look forward to ensuring every child in our state receives the quality educational opportunities they deserve.”

Republican Gov. Mike Parson called Eslinger “a tenacious leader who has a vision that will continue to move the needle forward in our Missouri schools.”

Eslinger, who is from southwestern Missouri, was elected to the Missouri House in 2018 and to the state Senate in 2020. She has also previously worked as an assistant commissioner for the state education department. Vandeven has served two stints as education commission, from 2015 through 2017, and since January 2019.