Douglas rails about bill ending board fight

Posted at 4:14 PM, Feb 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-03 19:49:56-05

Arizona schools chief Diane Douglas on Wednesday issued a fiery broadside against a state senator who is pushing legislation to settle ongoing fights between Douglas and the state Board of Education.

Douglas said she was "shocked" at the "repulsive nature" of Republican Sen. Jeff Dial's proposal. Senate Bill 1416 would essentially end lawsuits and other problems between the board and Douglas that emerged after she took office early last year by laying out the specific duties of each office.

"Having successfully faced a primary election, a general election, a pathetic recall effort and an ongoing lawsuit by the State Board of Education, I am stunned that a so-called conservative Republican would try to reverse the will of the people," Douglas said in a statement. "SB 1416 strips the office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction of many of its constitutional duties and gives them to unelected board members that meet around once per month."

Dial said his bill simply clarifies the duties and powers of the board and is designed to end a pair of lawsuits between the two.

"Actually, if you look at the Constitution ... it basically says that the powers will be proscribed by law," Dial said. "Maybe she's not aware of this, but we make the laws down here at the Legislature."

Douglas, also a Republican, attacked Dial for being "anti-Common Core and Republican on the ballot, but a pro-Common Core liberal in office." She contends the bill would allow two members of the board to reverse a decision last year decoupling the state from the state-created standards adopted in 2010.

"I have no clue where that came from," Dial said. "So I assuming that she didn't (read) the bill, and she thought that would be a popular talking point, even though it has no factual basis in the proposed law."

Douglas supported a bill last year that would have clarified her and the board's duties, and it passed the Senate. But it died in the House after conservatives revolted against what they saw as a weakening of the state school superintendent's power.

Two lawsuits pitting Douglas against the board are working their way through the courts. The first lawsuit came after Gov. Doug Ducey reversed Douglas' effort to fire board executive staffers. She then unsuccessfully sued to get an order giving her power over board employees, but she is now appealing the ruling against her.

The second lawsuit was filed by the board after Douglas refused to give remote computer access to board investigators charged with researching teacher discipline matters. That lawsuit is pending in Superior Court.

The Senate Education Committee takes up Dial's bill on Thursday.