Simon's departure may affect ed reform

(September 24, 2003) - (Little Rock-AP) -- With Ray Simon leaving the state Education Department, there is concern the push to reform education in Arkansas may suffer without his knowledge. Simon -- director of the state education department -- has accepted President Bush's omination to a U-S Department of Education post. He must pass Senate confirmation. The nomination comes as the state has 11 weeks to make court-ordered reforms to correct deficiencies in public education. Representative Calvin Johnson, chairman of the House Education Committee, says this is a difficult time to lose Simon since he has a knowledge base about what the state is trying to do. Many involved in Arkansas' education reform debate say they expect Simon to leave for Washington soon. And they say finding a replacement won't be easy -- especially while trying to make court-ordered education reforms. Kellar Noggle, director of the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators, says Simon is highly respected among educators.