Jay Barth, a Hendrix College professor, will replace Dr. Ben Mays, a veterinarian from Clinton on the State Board of Education, according to a news release from Gov. Mike Beebe’s office Thursday.

“Dr. Barth is a tireless advocate for education, but also has the deliberative mind needed to tackle the wide range of important issues the Board of Education addresses,” governor’s spokesman Matt DeCample said in an email. “Gov. Beebe feels that Jay’s well-researched insight into Arkansas education will be a welcome addition to the board.”

The following are a few points about Dr. Barth:

  • Dr. Barth is openly gay, and various sources have praised him for his willingness to be open about his sexual orientation.
  • Arkansas Times publicized his same-sex marriage to Little Rock Attorney Charles Buren Cliett, Jr., in a New York City wedding.  According to the Times the two men were married on March 18th of this year in a ceremony performed by Susan N. Herman, president of the Board of Directors of the ACLU.
  • According to AARA News Service, Barth chaired the 2006 Arkansas Democratic Party Platform Committee that deleted the line affirming marriage as the union of a man and a woman.
  • In 2006, Barth wrote for PlanetOut.com that Hendrix may really be the most friendly and affirming school for GLBT students in the South.
  • In an essay entitled “An Older Brother’s Approval,” released on May 10, 2012, Barth praised President Obama’s decision to back same-sex marriage.
  • In 2010, Barth lost a bid for the Arkansas Senate to Linda Chesterfield of North Little Rock who called into question Barth’s sexual orientation, his views on race, and his truthfulness.
  • In addition to serving as a professor at Hendrix College, Dr. Barth writes for Arkansas Times and serves as a political consultant for Talk Business.

In a statement released on Friday, Family Council President Jerry Cox of Little Rock questioned Beebe’s appointment of Dr. Jay Barth.

“Setting aside his sexual orientation,” Cox said, “Dr. Barth might be a good pick for the State Board of Higher Education, considering he works in higher education.  People are asking what a liberal political science professor, who probably hasn’t spent a day in elementary school since he left sixth grade, has to offer in the way of direction for K-12 schools and students.  I didn’t hear the Governor answer that question.”

Cox went on the say, “If I were going to pick someone to serve on the board of Toyota, I would pick someone who understands the automobile business.  Dr. Barth and the State Board of Education seem to be a mismatch. As far as I know, he hasn’t been an elementary or high school classroom teacher, an administrator, or even a school board member. Yes, he’s a college professor, but anyone who has ever set foot on a college campus knows that K-12 and college are two completely different educational establishments.”

Cox said that Barth’s views on same-sex marriage and his support of groups like the ACLU could make him the most left-leaning person ever to serve on the State Board of Education—something that may trouble many teachers and school administrators.

“I have to question if Dr. Barth’s views on same-sex marriage and homosexuality may find their way into public school policy recommendations,” Cox said. “Most people can’t totally separate their values from their vote, and I would expect Dr. Barth to be no different when it comes to the policies he promotes.  We have to remember that he has been appointed to help oversee every student in every public school in Arkansas.

“It is unfortunate that Governor Beebe has appointed someone who seems so entirely mismatched for the position of State Board of Education. The Arkansas Legislature defers a lot of policymaking power to the Board of Education because they trust the governor to appoint knowledgeable individuals who are deeply familiar with the workings of our education system—and who know what needs to be done to improve it. The State Board of Education makes policy for all Arkansas public elementary and secondary schools, and Dr. Barth will serve until June 2019. Between his lack of familiarity with that system and his views that evidently are very far removed from those of the typical Arkansan, Dr. Barth just doesn’t seem like the right fit for the job of making education policy for our K-12 students.”