Shane Broadway, the former senator who was Gov. Mike Beebe’s choice to be permanent director of the state Higher Education Department, won’t seek the job. He’s been under pressure from Republicans who say that Broadway doesn’t meet the statutory requirement for experience in higher education. They also say Broadway was tapped before the Higher Ed coordinating board did a required search.
Republicans have requested an attorney general’s opinion on the legality of making Broadway permanent director. They’ve complained that Attorney General Dustin McDaniel has delayed too long issuing an opinion. He’s off the hook now on mootness, I presume, though the office has told Jason Tolbert he’ll still produce the opinion, likely on Monday.
Here’s Broadway’s letter to the governor. He said he’d serve as interim (which the law clearly allows) until a permanent director is chosen. He also said he’d be willing to continue to work as deputy director. Broadway, who had no job experience on a college campus, worked extensively in education issues as a legislator. He’s a well-liked politician, a not insignificant quality in a job that, ultimately, is more political than regulatory. Arkansas colleges and universities enjoy a great deal of independence constitutionally. The Higher Education Department is often more advisory than regulatory. However, laws do matter. Don’t they?
Broadway didn’t cite the legal controversy in his decision. He said the additional time required in the job took time away from his wife, Debbie, who has multiple sclerosis. He said he and his wife decided that “new challenges” in that battle were where they need to “focus our collective energies.”
Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Beebe, said, “The governor has known for a couple of weeks this was coming. He fully supports Shane’s decision and understands it. In the end, family trumps the rest.”
DeCample said the governor still believed Broadway was qualified to serve, though if the attorney general had opined otherwise, “he would have taken his name down and a search would have started.” Beebe has no other name to put forward for the job. “He’s fine with the Higher Education board conducting the search. We’re glad Shane is willing to stay on as interim while that occurs.”
David Leech, chairman of the Higher Education Coordinating Board, issued this statement: