Education Secretary Jacob Oliva flanked by members of the state Board of Education. (file photo) ADE

Arkansas Board of Education members signed off on Thursday on Governor Sarah Sanders‘ pick for education secretary, Jacob Oliva. The board formally approved Oliva as head of the Department of Education, overseeing all things state education, including higher education and career and technical education divisions, and as the leader of the department’s Division of Elementary and Secondary Education, too. So he’s the big boss of all things education, but also the more hands-on leader of Arkansas’s K-12 schools.

The Thursday vote to expand Oliva’s role was unanimous.


A press release from the Arkansas Department of Education about the vote included this background on Oliva’s career thus far:

Prior to being named commissioner and secretary, Oliva served in numerous roles at the Florida Department of Education, most recently as interim commissioner. He joined the Florida department as executive vice-chancellor of the Public Schools Division in 2017 and became chancellor in 2019, where his division supported more than 2.8 million students in approximately 3,600 Florida public schools.
In 2021, he was promoted to senior chancellor, and his responsibilities expanded to include early learning, school choice programs, school safety, and school accountability. Additionally, he encouraged statewide leadership and communication between the Florida Department of Education and the state’s school districts.
Oliva is a graduate of Miami-Dade County Public Schools and Flagler College in Florida. He began his educational career more than two decades ago as an elementary teacher for students with special needs. He later served as a principal at both the elementary and high school levels and as an assistant superintendent and superintendent of Flagler County Schools.
Brian Chilson
Arkansas Education Secretary Jacob Oliva

Sanders campaigned on expanding “school choice,” and Oliva comes to Arkansas from a state that’s actively pursued charter school expansion and tax credits for students who opt for private or homeschools over traditional public schools.


Sanders also waved a false flag about critical race theory and left-wing indoctrination in schools. Oliva has something to offer her there, too. As Florida’s education chancellor until he took the Arkansas post, Oliva helped schools come into compliance with the state’s so-called “don’t say gay” law by doing things like removing the term “institutional racism” from policy books and updating racial equity statements.