Douglas to speak against plan to define her job

Posted at 6:35 AM, Feb 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-04 16:56:13-05

Arizona schools chief Diane Douglas on Thursday failed to persuade an Arizona Senate committee to derail legislation designed to settle ongoing fights between her and the state Board of Education.

Douglas appeared before the Senate Education Committee and said the bill by Sen. Jeff Dial, R-Chandler, took away what she contends is her oversight of board employees.

"This bill will make unlawful actions that have been going on by the state board lawful," Douglas said. "And I'm not sure that's the way the way that we should move forward."

Douglas, a Republican who was elected in 2014 as superintendent of public instruction, has been locked in a legal battle with the board for nearly a year over who controls board staff. So far, the board has prevailed in court but two cases are ongoing.

That legal dispute prompted Dial's effort to fix existing law to clarify who has responsibility over the employees. He noted repeatedly that the state Constitution gives the Legislature the role of laying out those duties.

"I think the policy is cluttered. The fact that there's a lawsuit between the superintendent and the board ... it's obviously not clear," Dial said. "And since the Legislature under the Constitution has the role of determining the duties, I think we've got to be the adults in the room between the superintendent and the Board of Education and we have to provide that clarity."

Douglas backed off her a contention she made Wednesday that the Legislature was trying to strip her of many of her constitutional duties. Instead, she said the point was that the board didn't have the ability to oversee its staff since it only met once a month. The board does have an executive director who is charged with that oversight.

Dial also noted that Douglas has backed Legislation last year that would have done clarified the roles. Douglas testified in support of that bill in the Senate, but it failed to pass the House. She said she went along begrudgingly.

"I did not believe in the bill last year," Douglas said. "But I was willing to agree to a tiny little compromise which I didn't believe was right because a board that meetings 11 times a year for two three four hours a month cannot possibly complete the day-to-day supervision of employees."

The panel approved Senate Bill 1416 on a 5-2 vote and it now heads to the full Senate for action.