Gov. Mike Beebe today named Joe Black of Newport to the state Board of Education. He succeeds Sherry Burrow of Jonesboro. He’s served previously on the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, reappointed to another term by Beebe only about 3 months ago. He will now leave that commission.
Black’s appointment returns to two the number of black members of the nine-member board.
Black is president of Southern Financial Partners, now known as Southern Bancorp Capital Partners. That could hint at his potential view on a key issue before the board, regulation and expansion of charter schools. The governor’s office confirms he remains employed at Southern.
Southern is an affiliate of Southern Bancorp, the development bank. It is a nonprofit arm that has pumped money into charter schools, particularly the KIPP Academy in Helena-West Helena. The Bancorp itself has provided financing for the Lighthouse Academies, which is seeking to expand in Little Rock, and eStem Charter School. The Little Rock School District is contesting open enrollment charter expansion in Pulaski County on the ground that it resegregates the public school district.
Black apparently will be in a position somewhat akin to that of Naccaman Williams, who recently left the board. Williams, an employee of the Walton Family Foundation, which pours millions into charter schools, often found himself hearing school issues in which his employer had both philosophical and financial interests. The Walton Family Foundation also has poured money into Southern Capital Partners, $4.6 million in 2009.