Shane Broadway has been the “interim” director of the Arkansas Department of Higher Education for more than two years. Under a bill filed Wednesday, he might get a shorter title.

Senate Bill 812 by Sen. Jeremy Hutchinson (R-Benton) would remove the requirement that kept Broadway from getting the job in the first place – that the director “shall be an experienced educator in the field of higher education.” Instead, the director could simply “demonstrate competence” in agency management or related skills.

Broadway became interim director in February 2011 after the previous director, Dr. Joe Purcell, left for a much higher salary to take the same job in Louisiana. The Arkansas Higher Education Coordinating Board tried to appoint Broadway to the permanent position until Republican legislators objected because Broadway has never been an educator. Broadway eventually removed himself from consideration for the job.

Hutchinson said Thursday that experience in education has driven up the salary cost and never should have been a requirement. With less than two years left in Beebe’s term, it’s unlikely the state will find a permanent director before the next administration takes office.

Unlike the director of the Arkansas Department of Education, which deals with students in grades K-12, the higher ed director is not involved in curriculum. Instead, that position is in charge of administering financial aid and coordinating activities of the state’s higher education institutions.

A permanent director would make up to $192,000 annually. Broadway’s salary is $129,000.

Hutchinson worked with Higher Ed in the wording of the bill. Broadway said the agency wanted to give the Coordinating Board more flexibility over the long-term.

He said in an interview Thursday that he would consider taking the job were it offered, but the bill does not have an emergency clause, so it would be months before it would take effect, and he would have to consider his options.

The governor must confirm the Coordinating Board’s choice for executive director. Matt DeCample, Gov. Beebe’s spokesperson, said his office was unaware of the bill until it was filed on Wednesday.

“Of course, the governor supports Shane Broadway strongly – always has,” DeCample said. “Wanted him to be the director and has done a good job as interim director. If that bill gets through, Shane would be at the top of any list of ours moving forward.”

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Steve Brawner

Steve Brawner

Steve Brawner is a freelance journalist and contributor to Talk Business & Politics. He is also a syndicated columnist in 10 Arkansas newspapers. You can email him at brawnersteve@mac.com or follow him on Twitter: @SteveBrawner.