On Friday, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas called on the State Board of Education to enter into court-supervised mediation with the Arizona Department of Education in an effort to preserve the office that Governor Doug Ducey is attempting to dismantle through legislation.
Douglas hopes to resolve the lawsuits between SBE and the Arizona Department of Education and has been clear in her opposition to legislation, SB1416, proposed by State Sen Jeff Dial. Dial, affectionately known as Gomer Dial after his murky military record made headlines in 2015, serves as one of Ducey’s surrogates in the Legislature.
Douglas said in her latest correspondence to the legislature on February 9, “I wanted to reach out personally on an issue very important to me and to the future of Arizona.” Douglas went on to say that she would like to de-escalate the disagreement with SBE through court mediation and is prepared to immediately start that process. However, she said, SBE has, to this point, refused to consider that option.
In a statement released on Friday, the Superintendent said she is appreciative of efforts by multiple senators to bring both parties to the negotiating table. She stands ready to mediate the issue, preferably through the court, so that future litigation can be avoided.
She stated that she is confident that once the court acts, the matter will be quickly resolved.
Ducey has acted primarily on behalf of the corporate controlled charter industry. He has made several moves to dismantle traditional public schools, and usurp the powers outlined in Arizona’s constitution for the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Ducey’s intrusion and the failure of the SBE in the few duties for which they are responsible has left many educators with grave concerns about SB1416. SBE’s failed to perform the most important duty; keeping classrooms safe. That malpractice should have resulted in SBE’s leader’s resignation, but under Ducey not only is it ignored; it appears to be rewarded with more power. How the governor could think that a Board, whose only power exists when it is in an official meeting could manage more duties is beyond reason.
Reason must prevail however, and the court, not the court of public opinion, must resolve the question.
As Itasca Small, who has studied the history of the role of the SBE and Superintendent and SB1416 writes: “The bill advances the nationwide National Governor’s Association agenda to render the remaining elected offices of state superintendent impotent and subservient to state boards and governors. It would take constitutional authority from the superintendent and reduce the office of state superintendent to a vassalage of the state board, while seeking to align the Education Title to the action taken in SB1416.”
According to Small, SB1416 makes constitutional changes, which of course requires a Constitutional Amendment. If the Legislature decides to make that move – they would surely face stiff opposition.