Douglas presents K-12 education fix proposal

Posted at 10:44 PM, Oct 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-10-02 01:44:41-04

Arizona's top school official rolled out her plan to fix the state's struggling K-12 school system on Thursday, and it includes eliminating the state's Common Core standards, a move already blocked by the Board of Education.

Superintendent of Instruction Diane Douglas has already called for an additional $400 million in school funding as an initial part of that policy primarily to boost teacher pay, a proposal that competes with ones being pushed by the Republican-controlled Legislature, Gov. Doug Ducey and minority Democrats.

Ducey directed the Board of Education to review and recommend revisions to the Common Core earlier this year, but he stopped short of calling for an outright repeal. Douglas said Thursday that Common Core should be dumped for other standards.

"Anyone who followed my campaign knows one thing about me for sure -- I oppose Common Core with all my fiber," Douglas said. "I challenge the state Board of Education to vote at their very next meeting to reverse their previous actions and sever the ties between Arizona and Common Core."

The board has a committee that is charged with reviewing Common Core standards, but it isn't expected to complete recommendations on changes until next year.

Other parts of Douglas' 157-page plan include reducing standardized testing, doing more to protect student data and boost school safety and changing how the state teaches minority students.

"For too long our curriculum has lagged, teaching racism by teaching children based on the color of their skin," she said. "We should have the same culturally rich, inclusive instruction in Window Rock, Scottsdale, Yuma and Tucson."

Douglas campaigned last year on repealing Common Core, and the Board of Education is reviewing the standards. Since she has taken office, Douglas has battled with board over control of that policy-making body's staff, unsuccessfully suing the board. In turn, she was hit with a lawsuit by the board on Wednesday. That case seeks an order requiring Douglas to give board investigators remote access to files needed in teacher discipline cases and to direct traffic to the board's new website.

While Douglas can change some administrative issues in her role overseeing the Department of Education, her main job is directing money allocated to schools and implementing policy adopted by the Board of Education.

Still, Douglas said she could use her elected position to start discussion on changes to school policy.

"I've never claimed that I have the authority to wave a magic wand and make Common Core go away or make any changes," Douglas said. "It's all about making sure that people ensure Arizona's children are first and foremost."

A cost estimate for the plan, other than the additional $400 million to boost teacher pay and support, wasn't released.

Douglas gathered employees and their children at an event at the Phoenix Art Museum to announce her plan. Douglas spokesman Charles Tack said those members of her staff "put a lot of time and effort into this plan, and I think they're looking forward to sharing the event with their families."