Teacher test fraud opens the door to school choice in Arkansas

Robby Soave Reporter
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Prospective teachers in three southern states paid stand-ins to take their licensing exams, according to a federal investigation that uncovered 15 years of mass fraud in the public school licensing system.

In response, education reformers in Arkansas are calling for a renewed push to decrease the state’s reliance on government-run schools.

“I think what this demonstrates is that there is a much stronger case for school choice than we previously realized,” said Dan Greenberg, president of the Advance Arkansas Institute, in an interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Licensing tests for public school teachers were implemented in Arkansas during Bill Clinton’s governorship in the 80s, at the urging of an education task force led by Hillary Clinton. The tests were opposed by the National Education Association, and some taxpayers groups, who felt the $180 million tax increase to pay for education reforms wasn’t worth the cost.

The Clintons touted teacher-testing as a forward-looking and necessary education reform, according to Greenberg.

“That was going to be the master key to education reform,” he said.

But the results of the recent investigation are a significant blow to that idea. The man who concocted the scheme — Clarence Mumford — was also an educator. Would-be teachers paid him up to $3,000 each to send stand-ins with fake IDs to take their licensing exams for them. At least 18 people were charged in connection with the crime. Some of them are currently still employed as teachers at public schools.

Whatever flaws teacher-testing may have, the definitive education reform of the future is school choice, according to Greenberg.

“The 20th century solution to the poor quality of education was teacher testing in public schools, and I think the 21st century solution is choice in education,” he said. “Not just the government can monitor the quality of services–at which it’s now shown it’s done a terribly inadequate job–but parents and consumers can actually monitor the quality of education services.”

The Republicans took control of both chambers of the Arkansas legislature last month- — for the first time in modern history. Greenberg expects the new Republican majority to take up legislation relating to school choice reforms in the coming months.

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