Friday, February 13, 2015

Arizona Education Politics Getting Weirder and Weirder

It all started when Doug Ducey won the governor's race last November. Ducey, who cut his political teeth as a student at Arizona State University editing the campus newspaper, made his millions in the ice cream business (Cold Stone Creamery). Immediately upon taking office he instituted a hiring freeze and promised to increase school choice. That same mid-term election saw a virtual unknown Republican school board member, Diane Douglas, defeat ASU Education professor David Garcia for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction. Douglas vowed to dump Common Core on grounds of its being federal intrusion into a state responsibility, but policy had nothing to do with her victory; if you had an R behind your name in the mid-term election, you won.

Two days ago, Douglas fired two of the top administrators of the State Board of Education -- Executive Director and Asst. Executive Director. It's not hard to imagine why; they were far down the road of installing the Common Core in Arizona schools. Although Douglas is ex officio member of the State Board, the Governor questioned whether she had the authority to hire these two persons and he reinstated them. Yesterday, the whole business erupted in a public fight between Ducey and Douglas over whether the latter has the authority to fire people in her department. After a prayer breakfast Thursday morning, the Governor was barely out the door before he gave reporters an insincere piece of his mind: "[I'm] sorry she chose to go down that path." Douglas shot back. Ducey, she said, is establishing a "shadow faction of charter school operators and former state superintendents [referring to Lisa Graham Keegan who supported Douglas's opponent in the election] who support Common Core and moving funds from traditional public schools to charter schools."

Score +1 for Douglas for speaking the truth. The Arizona Senate has moved forward quickly in this session to support the privatization of K-12 education. The Senate education committee has already approved bills that would 1) award vouchers (at 90% state per pupil expenditure) to any student whose application has been turned down to open enroll in a public school or a charter school within 25 miles of their home, and 2) award a voucher to any student on an Indian reservation. Clearly the Republicans are flexing their muscles after the November victory; such radical pro-voucher legislating has never before made it into law in Arizona. Perhaps this is the year.

Gene V Glass
Arizona State University
National Education Policy Center
University of Colorado Boulder

The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and do not represent the official position of the National Education Policy Center, Arizona State University, nor the University of Colorado Boulder.

No comments:

Post a Comment