Florida education official tapped as next Arkansas education secretary

by | Jan 2, 2023

  • Arkansas Governor-elect Sarah Huckabee Sanders appointed Jacob Oliva to serve as the state’s secretary of education
  • Oliva has held a position within the Florida Department of Education since 2017 and worked as a close ally to Gov. Ron DeSantis 
  • Oliva also launched a bid last year to become superintendent of Miami-Dade schools
  • The poaching of a top Florida education official indicates that Arkansas may attempt to replicate the educational policies recently passed in Florida 

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the newly-elected governor of Arkansas, has appointed Jacob Oliva, a senior chancellor at the Florida Department of Education, to serve as secretary of education in Arkansas.

Oliva began working for the Florida Department of Education in 2017 and currently oversees the Public Schools Division. He also launched a bid last year to become superintendent of Miami-Dade schools.

In recent years, Oliva worked closely with Gov. Ron DeSantis to pass key education legislation including the Parental Rights in Education bill, the elimination of Florida Standards Assessment (FSA) testing, and the implementation of curated curricula.

At his introductory press conference, Oliva spoke in similar rhetoric to that of DeSantis.

“Parents have a right to know what their children are being taught, which textbooks are being used, and what they have access to in the school libraries,” said Oliva.

The Florida Department of Education has yet to comment on Oliva’s appointment.

“I am proud to announce that Jacob Oliva will be my nominee for Secretary of [Arkansas Education],” said Sanders on Twitter. He is a leader who has proven himself in the fight to empower parents and implement bold education reforms under Governor [Ron DeSantis] and we are ready to transform Arkansas education.”

As part of her recent gubernatorial campaign, Sanders outlined an education agenda she refers to as ‘Arkansas LEARNS.’

The plan focuses on providing higher teacher pay, granting internship and apprenticeship opportunities to students, and improving the state’s literacy rates among elementary students.

According to Sanders’ campaign, just 35 percent of 3rd graders in Arkansas read at grade level.

Given the similarities between the Arkansas LEARNS agenda and DeSantis’ education platform, Oliva’s appointment could indicate a future replication of Florida’s education policy and legislative efforts.

“[Sarah Huckabee Sanders] has over-delivered once again,” said Arkansas State Representative Brit McKenzie. “Nominating Jacob Oliva is a clear sign that Arkansas is primed for reform-minded policies that place Educational Freedom back at the forefront. Excited to work with Secretary Oliva this next General Assembly.”

Sanders stated during a news conference that she plans to cooperate with the Arkansas Board of Education to nominate Oliva to occupy dual positions as commissioner of elementary and secondary education.


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