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Following Swift Change to State Law, Ark. Picks Former Senator as New Chief

The Arkansas Board of Education has picked former state senator Johnny Key to be the state's next commissioner of education following a board vote on March 25.

The appointment came quickly after Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who wanted Key to be the K-12 chief, signed legislation earlier this month reducing the requirements to be the state's education commissioner. As I wrote recently, until Hutchinson signed legislation changing those requirements, state chiefs in the Natural State had to have a master's degree,10 years of work in education, including at least some time in an administrative position, and a valid Arkansas teacher's license.

Johnny-Key-arkansas-education-blog.jpgKey, who did not meet those prior prerequisites for the commissioner's job, served in the state legislature from 2003 to 2013 and at one time led the state Senate education committee. He's also worked as the top lobbyist for the University of Arkansas system. His first day on the job is March 26, and he'll replace Tony Wood, who took over as commissioner for former commissioner Tom Kimbrell last July.

"As chairman of the Senate Education Committee, he was noted for his leadership, consensus-building and bipartisan approach. We are lucky to have someone with his skill set, demeanor and vision as the next education commissioner. He will do an outstanding job," Hutchinson said in a statement released by the Arkansas education department.

Key in turn said he would work closely with the department, schools, and parents "to ensure every student receives a quality education. Working together, we can and will shift the discussion from educational adequacy to educational excellence."

Former state Sen. Johnny Key, right, was selected as the new Arkansas education commissioner by the state school board on March 25. Gov. Asa Hutchinson, left, announced Key as his choice for the job at a news conference on March, 2 in Little Rock. 

--Benjamin Krain/​Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/AP

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