I think we can all agree on the importance of education to prepare our children and grandchildren to fulfill their future aspirations and to become successful citizens of our great nation. I think we all recognize the role which the Legislature plays – good, bad or indifferent – in mandating virtually everything about Arizona education from funding, to the authority granted to governing boards, to mandating the subjects to be taught and the list goes on.
So far this session bills have or will be heard in the Committees on Education that will potentially increase funding; restrict superintendents’ contract provisions; repeal Prop 203 and eliminate English immersion instruction for non-English speaking students; eliminate and replace the original Prop 301 Classroom Site Funding; eliminate teacher evaluations. So far, a mere 2 weeks into the session, 13 bills have either been heard or are scheduled in the Senate and 28 in the House Education committees. With two full week remaining to drop bills it is likely there will be many more impacting education this session.
That being said, I find it appalling that the Senate and House Committees on Education are scheduled on the same day, at the same time this session. The first week I thought, perhaps, it was merely a matter of some logistics and complications with the opening of the session. However, we are now heading into week 3 and the schedule has not changed.
I have followed the AZ Legislature for a very long time, as a citizen and parent, precinct committeeman, governing board member and Superintendent of Public Instruction. I could be mistaken but in all that time I don’t ever recall the same committee of the House and Senate meeting in conflict with one another; certainly not on an ongoing basis. I can’t help but wonder what possible good this will serve the citizens of Arizona at any time and most certainly not at a time when AZ education is in a state of turmoil and conflict; teachers (once again) walking off the job, schools closed and districts resorting to “remote learning” to the detriment of the academic, social and emotional well-being of our children, all while “the system” receives full, if not in fact increased, funding through the CARES Act.
With all due respect, President Fann, Speaker Bowers, Chairmen Boyer and Udall, I find it wholly unacceptable that this scheduling conflict occurred much less that it should be allowed to continue. These are the peoples’ chambers doing the peoples’ business. In my opinion it is disgraceful that the people have been all but banished from the Capitol grounds unable to witness and participate in person with the work of our Legislature for any and all who may wish to do so. I have found the quality of the teleconferencing is poor making it difficult at best to follow the testimony and discussions. If all that were not bad enough, now it is impossible to participate in the hearings of both the Senate and the House committees on a subject as crucial to the people as education. The committees responsible for the largest portion of General Fund appropriations; and which ultimately result in increases to both state and local taxes and all sorts of education policy both good and bad depending if one is an educrat, a lobbyist or a parent and taxpayer.
I respectfully request that Senate Ed Chairman Boyer and House Ed Chairwoman Udall and their members immediately resolve this conflict. Given the length, especially of the House Ed committee meetings, it is imperative in order to resolve any conflict that these committees meet on different days as has been the case in the past and with virtually every other corresponding Senate and House committees. If they are unwilling or unable to do so then, again respectfully, I request President Fann and Speaker Bowers do so on behalf of the people of Arizona who are concerned about the education of our children and the transparency of our legislative process.
Thank you for your consideration and your service.
Diane M. Douglas
AZ Superintendent of Public Instruction 2015-2018