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Douglas fights bill to empower state Board of Education

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas listens during the Arizona Board of Education's meeting on Feb. 13. (Photo by Rachel Leingang/Arizona Capitol Times)

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas listens during the Arizona Board of Education’s meeting on Feb. 13. (Photo by Rachel Leingang/Arizona Capitol Times)

State schools chief Diane Douglas is lashing out at a bill to confirm the power of the state Board of Education, calling it “anti-voter, anti-democracy, anti-education, anti-parents and anti-children.’’

SB1416, sponsored by Sen. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, proposes to clarify and delineate the powers of the State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction. They have been locked in a power and legal struggle for more than a year. The legislation would put board members in control of hiring, firing and supervising their own workers.

Dial said his bill clarifies that it is the board that sets policy — and it is up to the schools chief to implement that policy. Douglas said he can’t constitutionally do that.

The Senate Education Committee is scheduled to hear the bill Thursday.

The measure has the potential to end two lawsuits that are pending in Maricopa County Superior Court and the Arizona Court of Appeals. Each side has sued the other over questions of who hires and fires the board’s staff, who supervises them, and to force Douglas to allow board investigators to have remote access to a teacher database.

Douglas issued a press release attacking Dial and calling on Senate Education Committee chair Sylvia Allen, a Snowflake Republican, to hold the bill.

Allen said she spoke with Douglas today and she will more than likely hear the bill.

“I feel really bad she is so upset and tended to take this very personal when there was no intent for that,” Allen said.

Douglas called Dial a pro-Common Core liberal masquerading as a conservative Republican.

“I was shocked by the repulsive nature of Senator Dial’s bill, SB 1416. Having successfully faced a primary election, a general election, a pathetic recall effort and an ongoing lawsuit by the State Board of Education, I am stunned that a so-called conservative Republican would try to reverse the will of the people,” Douglas said.

Douglas campaigned on eliminating Common Core, the state’s learning standards for K-12 students. Dial was one of four GOP senators who last year joined Democrats in killing a bill that would have repealed the standards.

Dial said his bill has nothing to do with Common Core.

“It’s going to get us out of where we’re suing each other,” he said. “We want to get the money into the classroom, not into the courts, into the lawyers. So this just clarifies the statutes.”

Douglas’ press release was reminiscent of one last year in which she lashed out at fellow Republican Gov. Doug Ducey when he overturned Douglas’ firing of two board staffers.

Those terminations began a year of turmoil between Douglas and the board.

She sued to have a court declare she hired and fired the board staff and they worked for her.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Patricia Starr refused to rule, saying the conflict was not in the court’s jurisdiction, but she noted that the board has the power to hire and fire its staff.

The board staff of managers and investigators moved out offices in the Department of Education building and into the Executive Tower in April.

The board filed suit when Douglas refused to give investigators who are work on teacher discipline cases remote access to a teacher database, forcing them to work out of the department offices.

– Includes information from Howard Fischer of Capitol Media Services

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