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Douglas transforms spat into full-blown, out-of-control mess

The Camp Verde Journal of Camp Verde, Arizona

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Arizonans recently witnessed a spat over educational policy explode into a vitriolic, public spectacle between Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey.

Douglas is a vocal, almost obsessive opponent of Common Core, the nationwide educational standard slowly replacing No Child Left Behind legislation — which created the expiring standardized test known as Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards. Douglas made her opposition to Common Core the single talking point of her campaign and vowed to repeal the law with all her power.

Unfortunately for her, she lacks the authority to do so, meaning she broke her campaign promise almost from the moment she started campaigning because she did not understand her constitutional limitations. The decision to implement Common Core or reject it is simply above her pay grade. It rests not with the Arizona Department of Education, which she oversees, but with the State Board of Education, an 11-member body on which she sits as merely a single voice in a choir.

While her position is directly elected, the other 10 seats on the board are appointed by the governor and approved by the Arizona State Senate. As a member, she can persuade the other members to see her objections, but cannot unilaterally reject Common Core coming to Arizona. As superintendent, it is still her sworn duty to implement Common Core in the schools she oversees no matter how much she hates it.

Unswayed by the law, Douglas "fired" the State Board's executive director and assistant executive director from their positions late last week, going so far as having police escort them out of the building.

Ducey countered that Douglas' actions were illegal and both administrators are still employed.

Douglas sent out a knee-jerk press release titled, and I'm not kidding: "Diane Douglas did not see Doug Ducey's name on the ballot for state superintendent," then claiming Ducey wants to "deprive schools of hundreds of millions of dollars to give to his corporate cronies as tax cuts."

Douglas may be right in her opposition to Ducey's budget, which cuts a net $13.5 million from an already impoverished educational system. She may be right that Common Core will be as disliked as AIMS. But she is wrong in assuming impulsive recklessness wins her any allies.

Picking fights doomed to fail only weakens any political capital she thinks she has, which is slim: Douglas was elected in a Republican sweep of all of Arizona's top posts, so for her to assume she won solely on her platform of opposition to Common Core is mistaken at best, delusional at worst. Yet, she has gone full steam ahead with the assumption that she has total voter support — but her 50.5 percent margin of victory is razor-thin, and not a mandate.

The effort to recall Douglas began before she was even sworn in. Two months into the start of her term, she has proven to her opponents and even some allies that a recall election may not come soon enough.

— Christopher Fox Graham Managing Editor

Copyright 2015 The Camp Verde Journal, Camp Verde, Arizona. All Rights Reserved. This content, including derivations, may not be stored or distributed in any manner, disseminated, published, broadcast, rewritten or reproduced without express, written consent from SmallTownPapers, Inc.

Original Publication Date: February 25, 2015

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