Sarah Huckabee Sanders taps Florida Education Chancellor Jacob Oliva to lead agency in Arkansas
Image via Judd Deere, spokesperson for Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders Jacob Oliva via Sarah Huckabee Sanders
Oliva said he’s ‘excited to get to work on day one’ to enact his vision for education in Arkansas.

Education Senior Chancellor Jacob Oliva is leaving Florida for the subtropical, landlocked pastures of the Natural State.

During a Thursday news conference, Arkansas Gov.-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced her plans to nominate Oliva to lead the state’s Department of Education.

Oliva would replace Johnny Key, who has served in the role since March 2015. He would also serve in a dual role as the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“Education is the foundation for success, and with … Jacob Oliva, we are ready to transform Arkansas education with bold reforms that will empower every kid to succeed,” Sanders said.

She added, “We are going to work in partnership with (our lawmakers) to frankly deliver what Arkansas needs and what Arkansas students deserve.”

Oliva appeared to be excited about the move, telling attendees at the Arkansas State University System office he believes Sanders “has the right vision to unleash Arkansas education.”

“And I’m excited to get to work on Day 1 to enact it,” he said. “Education is the key to the future, creating opportunities for all, which is why I’ve spent my career implementing successful early learning programs, empowering parents with choices and investing in career readiness.

“I am ready to continue that work here in Arkansas and look forward to working with Gov.-elect Sanders to build a bright future for our students.”

Oliva, who began his career as a special education teacher, joined the Florida Department of Education in January 2017 after serving as Superintendent for Flagler County Schools. He now oversees the Division of Public Schools, Office of Safe Schools, Division of Early Learning, Office of Independent Education and Parental Choice, and Office of Assessment and Accountability.

In January, he applied to succeed Miami-Dade County Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, who left to lead the Los Angeles Unified School District. The county School Board ultimately went with Jose Dotres.

When he departs the Sunshine State for the new role, Oliva leaves behind the third-largest public school system in the country, with roughly 4,000 schools, more than 160,000 teachers and 2.9 million students.

He will also leave fellow Senior Chancellor Henry Mack, who oversees Career, Technical and Adult Education.

Sanders hailed Oliva’s “proven success increasing student achievement.” In a statement, she said he will expand access to education and “empower parents, not government bureaucrats, and prepare students for the workforce, not government dependency.”

She also cited his work on “parental rights policies and bold education reforms.”

Those comments indicate she may be hoping Oliva will replicate in Arkansas education policies implemented under Gov. Ron DeSantis, including executive orders preempting local school districts on COVID-19 safety measures and new laws restricting classroom instruction on race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual preference.

Jesse Scheckner

Jesse Scheckner has covered South Florida with a focus on Miami-Dade County since 2012. His work has been recognized by the Hearst Foundation, Society of Professional Journalists, Florida Society of News Editors, Florida MMA Awards and Miami New Times. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @JesseScheckner.


One comment

  • PeterH

    December 30, 2022 at 1:04 pm

    Hee Haw! Let’s move Arkansas schools from bad to worse …… just like Florida!

Comments are closed.


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