Legislative Shenanigans Or Just An (Inexcusable) Oops???

Protocol [ proh-tuh-kawl, -kol, -kohl ] noun

  1. the customs and regulations dealing with diplomatic formality, precedence, and etiquette.
  2. an original draft, minute, or record from which a document, especially a treaty, is prepared.

For, who remembers how long, there has been a protocol for bills submitted by legislators that change current statute. If new language is being proposed to be added to current law then that text is all written in the bill in BLUE CAPITAL LETTERS so that legislators and the citizens of Arizona can readily and easily see the changes being proposed to current law if ultimately passed by both chambers and signed by the governor.

That brings us to SB1178 and HB2402 (schools; test results; letter classification) mirror bills in the Senate and House.

Both bills add NEW LANGUAGE to ARS 15-741(A)(10) pertaining to the State Board of Ed (SBE) making date adjustments to testing and data and prohibits the SBE to impose penalties due to any date changes.

The current language of ARS 15-741 as previously passed by the legislature ends after Section 1. Section 15-741 (G).

Here in lies the rub. The sponsors of this bill – Education Chairs Sen. Boyer R LD20 and Rep Udall R LD25 – have proposed adding the following additional, new language to ARS 15-741:

Sec. 2.  School and school district letter grades; transition process

  1. Notwithstanding any other law, the department of education may not assign schools or school districts letter grade classifications pursuant to section 15‑241, Arizona Revised Statutes, for school years 2020‑2021 and 2021-2022.
  2. Notwithstanding subsection A of this section, the department of education shall continue to collect and publish data in school years 2020‑2021 and 2021-2022 concerning the academic and educational performance indicators for schools and school districts prescribed in section 15‑241, subsections C and D, Arizona Revised Statutes.
  3. For the purposes of sections 15-241, 15-241.01, 15-241.02 and 15-537 and title 15, chapter 19, Arizona Revised Statutes, and subject to final adoption by the state board of education, the department of education shall develop criteria to identify schools and school districts for school years 2020‑2021 and 2021-2022 that demonstrate a below average level of performance.
  4. Notwithstanding any other law, during school years 2020‑2021 and 2021-2022, the governing board of a school district may adopt alternative policies regarding performance based funding pursuant to section 15-977, subsection B, Arizona Revised Statutes, or policies regarding dismissal or nonrenewal procedures for teachers who continue to be designated in the lowest performance classification pursuant to section 15-537, subsection D, Arizona Revised Statutes.

Sec. 3.  Retroactivity

This act applies retroactively to from and after June 30, 2020.

NONE OF WHICH IS INDICATED AS NEW LANGUAGE TO AN EXISTING STATUTE PER THE PROPER LEGISLATIVE PROTOCOL.

Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t care if they waive the A-F letter grade. I have been saying for a long time, including from the SBE dais, that the state letter grading system is a convoluted, ever changing farce that is meaningless in helping parents determine the quality of education at their children’s schools. But I digress.

The problems are multiple.

  • How is it acceptable that staff did not appropriately draft the language of proposed statutory changes in these (or any) bills?
  • Are there not any “checks and balances” to ensure the work is accurate?
  • Better yet, do not legislators, especially committee chairmen, review that actual language of their bills, and the work of staff, to ensure it is correct, accurately reflected IN THE WORDING and as intended? The buck stops here. (And if the problem is “I sponsor too many bills to review them all.” Then the answer is drop fewer bills. Heaven knows the people of AZ don’t need a faction of the bills dropped by the legislators.)
  • And here in my opinion is the biggest problem. How many other bills have been dropped and passed into law, now or in past sessions, which have made changes to statute which were NEVER APPROPRIATELY INDICATED IN THE LANGUAGE OF THE ORIGINAL BILL AND WENT UNNOTICED BY LEGISLATORS?

How do we know, how can we, the citizens of Arizona, ever again trust that this is a one-time fluke and not legislative shenanigans?

About Diane Douglas, Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction 2015-2018 22 Articles
Diane Douglas is an American politician and educator expert, who served as Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2015-2019. She was elected on November 4, 2014. Douglas succeeded then-incumbent John Huppenthal, whom she defeated for the party's nomination in the Republican primary on August 26, 2014.