The first task for Diane Douglas, who calls her election to superintendent of public instruction a mandate to end Common Core, will be overseeing the state’s new test for measuring public school students under the learning standards.
The test will be on the fast-track to be written when Douglas, a Glendale Republican, takes her oath of office Jan. 5. The state Board of Education selected a test vendor Nov. 3 and testing is scheduled to begin March 30.
That means the woman who rode her single issue of opposing Common Core to victory Nov. 4 will have to reconcile her campaign platform with administering the $19 million test to nearly 1 million students in grades 3 to 11.
She conceded on the campaign trail that the state board sets policy, but she will “fight it tooth and nail.” She has one vote on the board.
Douglas, who declined an interview request, said Nov. 12 on KAET-TV Channel 8 she will put together a transition team and evaluate the status of the Department of Education’s state of affairs and decide where to lead it from there.
“We’re not going to, as some of my critics have alluded, just rip things out,” Douglas said.
She also criticized the process for selecting the test vendor, and vowed transparency in her administration.
“What an interesting process that was, a closed-door discussion in executive session and then the state Board of Ed comes out and has no public discussion and just takes a vote,” Douglas said.
Douglas won’t have any choice but to administer the test, noted Jaimie Molera, a board member and former superintendent of public instruction. Not doing so will be a breach of contract, and her powers as defined by state law require her to execute the state board’s policies.
The contract with American Institutes for Research has an escape clause if the Legislature fails to provide funding. But the Legislature appropriated $18 million for all of the different testing the state does.
The Arizona Department of Education, which Douglas will lead, has already asked the Governor’s Office for a $5.5 million budget increase for testing in fiscal-year 2016.
Molera said Douglas will have to carry out the test because it is what the state board decided.
State law requires the superintendent to “execute, under the direction of the state board . . . the policies which have been decided upon by” the board.
“It really is an administrative position,” said Molera, whose second, four-year term on the board ends at the end of 2014.
Common Core, renamed for the state as Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards, consists of a set of learning standards for English and math developed by an association of states and adopted by 46 of them.
The standards, which the state board adopted in 2010, have become a lightning rod of controversy throughout the nation. Opposition to them has grown over time by both the left and right, but the Tea Party has been the most ardent opponent in Arizona.
There were unsuccessful attempts to either repeal or diminish the standards in the 2014 legislature.
Douglas sounded a single note in the primary and general elections, with both of her opponents being in favor of the standards.
Third-party groups spent more than $800,000 to defeat her in the general election, an unprecedented sum in the down-ballot race, but she hunkered down by appearing only in front of friendly audiences and spurning debates with her Democratic opponent, David Garcia. Molera and fellow former Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan and the business community endorsed Garcia.
Douglas said in a Nov. 10 press release that the news coverage labeling her a one-issue candidate made it clear that a vote for her was a vote against Common Core.
“Our victory is clearly a mandate to implement Arizona based and controlled education standards,” she said. “We faced an onslaught of outside spending and still emerged victorious because the voters do not want Common Core in Arizona.”
Tim Hogan, who heads the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, said if Douglas tries to subvert the state board on Common Core or undermine the implementation of the test, it is highly probable there will be a lawsuit.
“There are sure a lot of interests that have been investing time and money in supporting Common Core. You’d think they’d have an interest in seeing it through,” Hogan said.