Wednesday, June 10, 2015

State Board of Education member Kim Davis now working for Walton Family Foundation

Posted By on Wed, Jun 10, 2015 at 4:47 PM

KIM DAVIS: Will he continue to serve on the State Board of Education after taking a job at the Walton Family Foundation? - ARKANSASED.GOV
  • ARKANSASED.GOV
  • KIM DAVIS: Will he continue to serve on the State Board of Education after taking a job at the Walton Family Foundation?

Kim Davis, the newest member of the State Board of Education, apparently has taken a job at the Walton Family Foundation.

The influential foundation, which is intimately involved in education policy in Arkansas and across the country, is widely seen as one of the driving forces behind the 'education reform' movement in its current incarnation. WFF typically supports more charter schools, greater school choice, increased reliance on testing-based accountability standards, and so on. 

Davis previously worked at the Northwest Arkansas Council, a business-centric economic development nonprofit based in Springdale. When I called the council yesterday afternoon and asked to speak to Davis, I was told he no longer worked there. When I called the Walton Family Foundation and asked the same, I was routed to his voice mail.

Evidently, he's on board at WFF in some capacity, but it's not clear how long he's been working there.

I'm not aware of any law or rule that would prevent a member of the state board from being an employee of WFF, but it undeniably raises questions. Many in Little Rock believe the takeover of the Little Rock School District was influenced by WFF; when the state board voted to take over the district in January, was Davis already planning on taking a position at the foundation? Will he be able to provide proper scrutiny of charter schools that are supported by Walton grants? Also, WFF, along with the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation, is partnering with the state Education Department to create the 'ForwARd Arkansas' planning document for the future of education in the state.

It's rumored, though unconfirmed, that Davis may be planning to resign his position on the State Board of Education. He's yet to respond to a voice message left yesterday asking that question.

Davis has served on the state board for less than a year. He was appointed by then-Governor Mike Beebe in August 2014, and his term would otherwise not expire until 2021. (State board members normally serve seven-year terms.)

If Davis does resign his position, that means Gov. Asa Hutchinson will have three state board vacancies to fill. The terms of current board members Sam Ledbetter (the chair) and Alice Mahony, both Beebe appointees, expire at the end of this month.

The June meetings of the state board will be held tomorrow and Friday at the Pulaski County Special School District Board Room, due to renovations at the Education Department building.

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