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Eslinger poised to lead DESE

Sources inside the Department of Elementary and Secretary of Education and the Missouri State Senate have informed The Missouri Times that Senator Karla Eslinger will be foregoing re-election to head the department.

The State Board of Education is scheduled to meet tomorrow in Jefferson City and her appointment will be discussed with an anticipated announcement after.

Eslinger would be replacing retiring Commissioner Margie Van Deven who has announced she was leaving the post in July. The timing would allow Eslinger to complete the upcoming legislative session that ends in May.

The Department has been in a recurring state of upheaval since the Covid pandemic closed public schools in 2020 with several state leaders including Senate Majority Floor Leader Cindy O’Laughlin calling for her resignation.

Eslinger is a former school superintendent in southern Missouri who was elected to the State House of Representatives in 2018, and the State Senate in 2024.

She is currently being challenged in the primary by Rep. Brad Hudson, and several sources confirm that Rep Travis Smith will now enter the primary to replace Eslinger.