Education Secretary Jacob Oliva is no stranger to lying in front of lawmakers, so when Rep. Stephen Meeks pitched another softball chance for him to spew pro-LEARNS propaganda on Tuesday, Oliva swung for the fences.

In the midst of a conversation about bonuses for high-performing teachers (something that’s always existed), Rep. Meeks asked for the Secretary’s thoughts on the Educational Rights Amendment. What followed was a slurry of propaganda, outright lies, and typical Oliva sliminess.

We posted the video to our Facebook page here, but few things stuck out to us.

First, the timing of the question. The amendment has nothing to do with teacher merit bonuses, nor would it remove the $50,000 minimum salary requirement imposed by LEARNS, which was what was being discussed. In fact, the question was so out of order that Meeks had to ask the Chair of the committee for permission to ask it and Oliva had to ask permission to answer it. Not to sound too conspiratorial, but we’d bet money someone told or asked Meeks to give Oliva the soapbox. They don’t miss a chance to shill for LEARNS.

Second, the disingenuousness of Oliva’s answer was off the charts. He claimed that the amendment would push Arkansas education backward because it would remove all the progress LEARNS has supposedly made, but here’s the thing: the amendment doesn’t actually affect LEARNS, and it wouldn’t undo anything LEARNS has already done. It simply requires that any school receiving public funds be held to public school standards.

That seems reasonable to us!

Alongside that, he continued to cite biased and incomplete studies on the progress made on education in the state. Our positive movement in education began before LEARNS was implemented. Taking credit for Asa Hutchinson’s achievements is nothing new for this administration, sadly.

Third, his claims about the cost of the amendment, should it pass, are missing the point. If the state claims to have a $760 million surplus for this fiscal year, it can – and should – dedicate those funds to our future: kids. Universal pre-K and afterschool/summer programs make up the majority of the assumed costs of the amendment.

Universal pre-K and afterschool/summer programs are incredibly successful across the board: they reduce truancy, help at-risk kids stay out of trouble, they increase learning outcomes throughout a child’s K-12 education, they help low-income parents afford quality childcare and early childhood education, and more. If Oliva is worried about funding such policies, perhaps he shouldn’t have rammed through a bill that lines the pockets of voucher grifters and takes money away from public schools.

This is the kind of thing we talk about whenever we ask, “what is state government doing for you?” This is simply good policy that most people support when polled directly, and so rather than say, “We can’t pay for this,” the state should be saying, “How do we pay for this?”

Instead, Oliva’s response to the amendment speaks to a lack of imagination about the possible.