The Legislature’s Pyrrhic Victory? SB1416 Strips Superintendent of Power

If the Arizona Legislature succeeds in passing Senator Jeff Dial’s repulsive SB1416, this is what they will have accomplished:   

Turned Arizona’s only elected official within the Department of Education into a water boy kowtowing to the will of 10 unelected, historically incompetent and downright dangerous, wasteful members of the State Board of Education.

Arizona’s voters won’t be fooled into believing that this bill "merely clarifies statutes," as Dial states. The voters who put Ms. Douglas into office aren’t that stupid. 

This is what will be very clear to voters:   The Legislature has removed the Superintendent’s effective representation of the voter’s mandate.  The Legislature has devalued and dishonored the voters. The Legislature has told the voters to “stuff it.”   The Governor, if he signs it, will be signing one of the worst "anti-voter", anti-elected official" bills we’ve seen in a long time.

Historically, members of the State Board of Education, serving at the will of whichever Governor appointed them, love to wield power, without a shred of deliberation, debate, or accountability. (Recent Ducey appointees Jared Taylor and Chuck Schmidt are the exceptions.) Here are just a few of their thoughtless, costly, and downright dangerous actions: 

The SBE’s reputation for lowering standards.  "In 2005 the State Board, over the objections of state Superintendent Tom Horne, reduced the passing grade on the AIMS test from 72 percent to 59 percent for reading, and from 71 percent to 60 percent for math.  Even with the reduced passing threshold, and a math test that has gotten progressively easier, just 61 percent of the class has passed after three attempts."  Most State Board of Education members said lowering the scores would look as if they were lowering the bar and backing off high standards for high school graduates, but still they voted 9-1 to do it. And the Legislature, in their vast wisdom then as now, got into the act, allowing grades in class work to add as much as 25 percent to a student’s AIMS results

The SBE spent untold thousands of dollars developing new Math standards in 2008/2009, only to dump them for Common Core Math in 2010.  

In 2010, they agreed to adopt Common Core State Standards, sight unseen.  The time and money wasted, and aggravation and pain their action has caused Arizona families is incalculable.   

In adopting CCSS, they disregarded ARS15-203(A)(10)(12)(13), which requires them to present a budget to the legislature relating to the accomplishment of its purposes, as well as a fiscal impact statement of any proposed changes to the minimum course of study or competency requirements and, on completion, send a copy to the director of the joint legislative budget committee (JLBC).  They didn’t do it. 

Finally, based on a request from Rep.  Bob Thorpe, the "estimated costs" of implementing Common Core were revealed.  Price Tag?  $387 million.  After spending months of work writing hundreds of pages in 3 applications, Arizona received a piddly $25 million from the federal government to adopt Common Core.  

The SBE has adopted assessment after assessment after assessment, the latest of which (AzMerit) has proven to be expensive, un-validated, worthless, and psychologically harmful to Arizona’s children.  See Parental Opt Out bill Hijacked!

In April 2012, SBE President Jaime Molera announced that Arizona would abandon the state’s standardized testing assessment, AIMS, for a new next generation K-12 assessment: PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), even though those tests had not yet been developed. This was, of course, the logical consequence of Arizona joining PARCC. Then, on November 3, 2014, just a few months before testing was to begin, the SBE abandoned PARCC in favor of AzMERIT. It bears emphasizing what happened here.  The SBE rolled out the red carpet to federal intrusion into state sovereignty. 

What rational person or body of people would abandon their standardized tests in favor of undeveloped tests, the development of which was not in their control?!

The company responsible for creating AzMERIT is American Institutes for Research (A.I.R.), one of the largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations in the world.  A.I.R. also created Utah’s SAGE assessment.   Dr. Gary Thompson, a Utah clinical psychologist, warned the Utah Legislature that "the corporation that the Utah State Office of Education chose as the vendor for the SAGE test (American Institute of Research), has launched the most expansive, massive, unethical experimentation on public school children ever witnessed in the history of Utah."

The SBE has placed children at serious risk of teacher misconduct.  State teacher investigators, working under the direction of the board, inaccurately recorded about a third of their teacher investigations.  Between 2010 and 2015, 79 cases of teacher misconduct were not properly reported, by investigators under Board supervision, to state and national databases.  A teacher, whose certificate was revoked in Oregon managed to get a teaching certificate in Arizona two months before she was charged with 10 felonies in Oregon, for allegedly having sex with a student.  

The teachers potentially affected by the faulty reporting include those who could have: Been disciplined for actions such as having improper relationships with students or who have been convicted of sex crimes against minors; Taught while under the influence alcohol; Taught inappropriate material to students;  Physically harmed students. Teachers with discipline problems slip through Arizona, national databases.

Yet, the Arizona Legislature believes that this disgraceful performance record warrants an increase in power.  Unbelievable. 

Sen. Dial, the State Board, and Legislature have the gall to criticize Ms. Douglas for filing "costly" lawsuits?  She did this to preserve her rights as a duly elected official who takes her job far more seriously than any of them when it comes to public education.   

Senator Dial’s comments to the ever fiesty Superintendent Douglas, during the Feb. 4, 2016 Senate Education hearing, basically stated that voters pay more attention to the Governor’s race than to the Superintendent’s, and since the Governor appoints the board, those appointments carry more weight, and so their powers trump hers.  

Mrs. Douglas has fought valiantly to do all possible to fulfill her campaign promise to get rid of Common Core.  She even forced a vote on Common Core by the current State Board:  it was 6-2 against.   

Itasca Small, who testified against the bill, was correct when she stated:  "…if you pass this bill, you will be ringing the bell that tolls the death knell of public education as it should be in the State of Arizona…"

Superintendent Douglas was correct when she stated at the Sen. Ed. hearing:  "Respect for the office is being hurt by this bill."

See also: 

Dial wins 1st battle in clash with Douglas

Bill to settle dispute between Diane Douglas, Education Board advances in Arizona senate

Douglas says proposal a threat to her powers as state schools chief

Teachers with discipline problems slip through Arizona, national databases

Parental Opt Out bill Hijacked!

The Emperor had no Clothes, and the AIMS Test has no aim 

Augmenting AIMS scores Based on Grades in Certain Courses