Tuesday, February 10, 2015

What's afoot on bill to change qualifications for state education commissioner

Posted By on Tue, Feb 10, 2015 at 9:43 AM

Barclay Key, an activist in the  state school district formerly known as Little Rock, has started an on-line petition against the bill by Sens. Alan Clark and Jane English to remove the requirement that the director of the state Education Department have a masters' degree and 10 years of direct or indirect experience as a teacher.

Tony Wood, the current director, has said he'll likely be departing the post by June. The state Board of Education hires the director, generally in consultation with the governor, though all the current board members are appointees of Mike Beebe. The governor has the right to fire the director.

I've written before about my suspicion that the change in qualification is to clear the way for an already-selected candidate. Somebody mentioned former Sen. Johnny Key, now lobbying for the University of Arkansas System. He was active in education issues, including responsibility for exploding the number of seats that receive state dollars to essentially finance home-schooling, by qualifying millions in spending on "virtual charter schools" that provide assistance to students who don't attend conventional brick-and-mortar schools. His special language, never debated on the floor, lifted the cap on such payments from 500 to 5,000 students.

The new qualification for education director: A bachelor's degree and  10  years’ "direct or indirect experience in the field of education, including without limitation as a teacher, administrator, or policy maker." Key words: Policy maker.

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