On Wednesday, the Arizona House Education Committee will consider SB1313, a bill intended to strip the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction’s Office of essential duties and assign them to the unelected State Board of Education. Education activists are outraged over the sudden introduction of an omnibus-style bill as a strike everything amendment.
Some of the provisions in SB1313 were previously embodied in SB1416, but that bill ran into stiff opposition this year, after it left the Senate and headed to the House. As a result, Rep. Paul Boyer was called on to offer the strike everything amendment. Strike everything amendments are frequently used by legislators to pass a bill under the public’s radar.
What Boyer and Arizona Governor Doug Ducey hope to pass under the radar is a bill that serves the agenda of the National Governor’s Association to consolidate control of education and its funding under executive branches.
To that end, SB1416, which when introduced contained 526 words related to teacher certification, was turned into and sold in the Senate as a bill to simply clarify a few duties. By the time the Senate approved it, the bill contained 23,927 words. It morphed into SB1313, yesterday, March 14, at 2:33 p.m., and completely overhauls educational governance in Arizona.
Despite having a clear economic interest in the charter industry which will benefit the most from the bill, Boyer not only crafted the legislation, but scheduled it to be heard by the Education Committee. As chair of the Education Committee, Boyer has hastily scheduled it and the public will be given little opportunity to stop it.
A similar situation occurred in Wyoming under Governor Matt Mead. In 2014, Mead worked with key legislators to pass a bill that stripped then-Superintendent of Public Instruction Cindy Hill of her duties. Hill fought the power grab in the courts, and eventually Wyoming’s Supreme Court found in her favor.
Ducey’s actions against Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas prompted Hill to visit the Arizona Legislature earlier this month to discuss the striking similarities between Mead’s actions and Ducey’s. Much like Mead’s moves, Ducey has created the Governor’s Office of Education.
As noted in the Yellow Sheet on March 7:
The Wyoming Supreme Court cited a 1953 Arizona Supreme Court case to support its finding that the Wyoming Legislature couldn’t strip Hill of her powers, which flies in the face of Biggs’ assertion that the Arizona Legislature can legally pass S1416. The State of Wyoming argued in Hill’s case that the state’s Constitution says powers and duties of the elected state officers “shall be prescribed by law.” Biggs said in testimony in Senate educ (Education Committee) that, “whether you like it or not,” Section 11, Article 4 of the Arizona Constitution, which defines the duties and powers of the SPI, states that those powers “‘shall be prescribed by law’ by this body.” Biggs said the debate on the bill is not on the constitutionality of the Legislature’s actions, but whether the bill is good policy. “This is not only our constitutional right, it is our constitutional duty,” Biggs said in his testimony. The Wyoming Supreme Court looked at Hudson v. Kelly, an Arizona Supreme Court decision on a challenge to a statute that required a newly created “commissioner of finance” to approve many of the functions of the constitutionally created state auditor. Arizona’s Supreme Court found that the auditor “held inherent powers,” and stripping the office of them was unconstitutional. The 1953 ruling stated that the Legislature “could not denude the office of its inherent powers and duties, even though they had been prescribed by statute, and leave the office as an empty shell.”
Rep. Paul Boyer did not respond to an inquiry by the ADI has to why he chose to use the strike everything maneuver.
“Arizona is one of just 13 remaining states with an elected Superintendent of Public Instruction. Representative Boyer’s bill guts this office as well as the will of the people. The last thing our lawmakers should be doing is taking away our vote and our voice,” stated Vicki Alger, PhD, author of FAILURE: The Federal “Misedukation” of America’s Children (forthcoming).