Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said little to the Senate Education Committee on Thursday, as she sought to have them remove power from her office. Instead, her Chief of Staff Michael Bradley advocated for the removal of her role overseeing the State Board of Education’s staff.
The Ward amendment, offered by Sen. Kelli Ward, R-Lake Havasu City, the committee’s chairwoman, would allow Douglas to put the embarrassing episode behind her and Governor Ducey in which they squabbled over who had control over the Board of Education’s staff. Douglas had petulantly fired the executive director and assistant executive director shortly after she took office.
Ducey said that Douglas lacked the authority to fire the employees. In turn, Douglas sent a emotional letter to the governor.
Among other things, HB 2184 would remove any oversight of the unelected board and staff by changing the language defining her role with the board from “executive officer of the State Board of Education” to “executive officer responsible for the execution of policies of the State Board of Education.”
Douglas claimed that she supported the measure in order to save legal expenses for the taxpayers.
However many taxpayers were unhappy with the move. Former Majority Leader Thayer Verschoor advised his supporters in an email of his opposition to the amendment. “Under this Proposed Amendment, the Superintendent of Public Instruction – elected by the people of this state – will be required to execute whatever policies (i,e. Common Core) that are agreed to by the non-elected State Board of Education. This is a case of the elected officials abdicating their authority to unelected folks who don’t answer to the voters. Next thing you will see is the non-elected State Board of Education given fee making authority to fund education so our elected official can wash their hands of raising taxes. This is VERY BAD POLICY.”
Douglas elevated Bradley from the Arizona Department of Education’s legislative liaison to her Chief of Staff shortly after taking office. The choice caused many raised eyebrows across the educational community. Bradley, has been viewed as an advocate for private money interests who do business with or on behalf of the ADE.
Bradley was a lobbyist hired by his friend, Tom Boone of Deer Valley and Valley Schools Management Group (VSMG) to push legislation on behalf of VSMG. Boone was accused later of using his role as a state legislator and governing board member to pass legislation that would benefit himself, his family and his business associates, according to an article on the Sonoran Alliance website.
Douglas appearance at the hearing surprised many, but it was her reliance on Bradley to explain the ADE’s position on the amendment that shocked many of her supporters.