Important Education Bills Before Arizona Legislature


I wanted to share some information emailed to me by Olga Tarro, a parent and education activist in Arizona about some bills that require some attention.

First the good bills….

A bill before the Arizona House and its companion bill in the Senate seek to return local control to schools by allowing them to choose the test they use. This bill will be heard this week.  Here is the bill summary:

HB2544/ SB1321 The state board of education (SBE) shall adopt a menu of statewide achievement assessments to measure pupil achievement beginning in the 2017-2018 school year. The assessments provided must be of “high quality” and demonstrate that they meet or exceed the state board’s adopted academic standards; that the cost to administer each assessment is not more then current assessment cost; and provide a third part evaluation of each assessment to show that it is of high-quality and meets standards.

Then the bad bill….

Apparently some legislators not happy with Diane Douglass have introduced a bill that would shift powers and duties away from the elected Superintendent of Public Instruction to the unelected State Board of Education.

The bill SB 1416 was just added and it is expected to be heard tomorrow.

Arizona friends please contact members of the Arizona House and Senate Education Committees. Their contact information is below:

House Education Committee:  Ask these Legislators to support HB2544 and NOT to support SB1416 

Senate Education Committee:  Ask these Legislators to support SB1321 and NOT to support SB1416

Arizona Board of Education Rejects Common Core

arizona-state-flagMonday morning the Arizona Board of Education voted 6 to 2 to reject the Common Core State Standards.  The state will, for now, leave the the math and ELA standards in place, but the state will develop their own standards.

ABC 15 reports:

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas was at the meeting and motioned for the vote. Eliminating Common Core is part of her education plan she unveiled earlier this month.

Board members discussed the issue for about 45 minutes before voting.

“The board is just saying, ‘We can take care of Arizona’s children and this is a very proud day for Arizonans,” said Douglas.

“This will send a clear message to the citizens of Arizona and the nation that Arizonans are smart enough, engaged enough, and collaborative enough to control the education of our own children.”

We’ll have to watch the process that takes shape as the board meets to determine the route they will go.  My hope is that they solicit parental, educator and legislative feedback in an open and (real) transparent process.


Arizona State School Chief Blasts Common Core

Diane Douglas

Diane Douglas

Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas was elected on a anti-Common Core platform so it’s no surprise that she would blast it during her 2015 State of Education address before the Arizona Legislature on Wednesday.

She’s probably the only state school chief talking like this, and she didn’t mince any words. She called the state of Arizona’s public education poor and then she turned her sights to Common Core and its assessment.

Our Arizona state standards were discarded and replaced with the unproven Common Core Standards, which came to Arizona as a de facto federal mandate―only to be renamed Arizona’s College and Career Ready Standards.

The continual disruption of standards, accountability, assessment, and educator evaluations has caused uncertainty and stress in the education community as well as among Arizona parents. This is not the first time Arizona has changed its entire education system to reflect the latest fad, top-down approach, or cure-all sold as the solution for student achievement.

Common Core is just the latest, and it was implemented virtually without public communication, input or support. This constant roller coaster of dramatic changes has shifted the focus away from educating children and placed it on change for the sake of change itself.

Parents, students and teachers are exhausted and districts are broke from rewriting curricula and lesson plans every seven to ten years. Just as some stability is reached, everything is changed once again.

And now we will be subjecting our children to the brand new, unproven, inaptly named AzMERIT test―the name is the only thing Arizonan about the test―which was hastily chosen just 11 short weeks ago behind closed doors, once again without public discussion or vetting.

It was created by a self-identified, self-described behavioral and social research organization―not by education experts.

Our dedicated assessment staff at ADE has the daunting task of rolling out this new test in the next 10 weeks. Make no mistake, that team and districts all across the state are working diligently to fulfill this mandate.

A mere 21 weeks from adoption to implementation―let me repeat, 21 weeks, less than half a year, to prepare a test for students at almost every grade level. Once again, our precious children are being used as guinea pigs to advance some education agenda.

I call on this Legislature and the Governor to stop the madness and put our children first.


A Recall Effort Before Diane Douglas Takes Office?

Diane Douglas

Diane Douglas

Common Core advocates are starting to organize to recall Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction-Elect Diane Douglas.  That’s right a group of people want to recall her before she’s even taken office.

Do elections mean nothing in Arizona?

The Glendale Star reports:

Newly elected state Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, who narrowly defeated Democrat David Garcia in the Nov. 4 election, is already facing a possible recall.

Douglas, who served 10 years on the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board, is due to take office next month, and per Arizona law, cannot be recalled until she has been in office six moths.

A group has formed a political action committee (PAC) to begin organizing and preparing to gather the minimum 364,000 signatures of registered Arizona voters to force a recall election.

“We formed this PAC so we were able to start organizing and getting volunteers ready,” said Anthony Espinoza, who registered the Coalition to Recall Diane Douglas PAC. “We are teachers, students, parents and concerned citizens who are worried that our school system will lack to improve under Douglas.”

Douglas is not without her advocates however.  Doug MacEachem calls this group “low information voters.”

But how lacking in info does a voter have to be to start an opposition campaign against a candidateafter the election?

That is what a Phoenix elementary school teacher recently did. Anthony Espinoza, 25, recently took out forms from the Secretary of State’s office to launch his anti-Diane Douglas campaign, which he can’t kick off until July, since Arizona law forbids recall elections until office-holders have had enough time in office to actually do something meriting a recall.

Douglas won her election in the race for schools superintendent by a narrow margin, which her opponents are taking to mean that she actually lost.

Espinoza’s web site has been “liked” by over 9,800 people. I guess that means there are at least 9,845 other people who, like the surprised Mr. Espinoza, didn’t realize there was going to be an election on Nov. 4.

Judging from the reactions of those people who only noticed we were having an election after the election, their issues pertaining to Douglas (who they were astonished to discover was a candidate) appear to be these:

1) Douglas opposes the nascent, federal Common Core education standards. She opposes them for fundamental reasons, like hostility to federal intrusion into a local issue, a position she shares with another victorious candidate.

Douglas actually shares that commitment to opposing Common Core with groups like the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, Her opposition, however, is for more principled reasons. The unions are objecting to Common Core data being used to evaluate their members. So, of course, Douglas must be punished for not taking a more self-serving position in opposition to Common Core.

2) Douglas lacks vanity letters after her name. You know: The letters that indicate the person is a person of substance for having obtained graduate degrees in education.

Laurie Roberts doesn’t seem to be sympathetic toward Douglas’ positions, but even she notes that Douglas should be given a chance.

Like it or not, Diane Douglas won and, absent Espinoza finding 367,000 or so voters to sign his petitions next summer, we – or more accurately, our children – will have her for four years.

At some point, presumably she’ll emerge from her bunker and do something other than spout kooky conspiracy theories.

If not, hey this is Arizona. We’ve survived worse.

For now, the voters have designated Douglas to oversee the education of our state’s future generations.

Quit shuddering and give her a chance, people. I, for one, cannot wait to see what she does.

Opposition to Common Core alone doesn’t make one a great state school chief, but this effort to recall her is just in poor taste by a group of people who are apparently sore losers.  Common Core was weighed and measured by Arizona voters and it was found wanting.  That said Douglas can’t repeal the Common Core by herself.  She needs a cooperative governor and legislature.  Arizona needs ripe for a significant Common Core bill.  I just hope it’s not just a rebrand.  That would be disappointing.

Common Core Sees Defeat at the Ballot Box

polling-booth.jpgLindsey Burke of the Heritage Foundation did a great job highlighting losses for Common Core advocates on Tuesday at National Review.  Here’s a list:

  1. It appears that Common Core critic, Diane Douglas, will be elected as Arizona’s Superintendent for Public Instruction.
  2. Richard Woods, another Common Core critic, won as Georgia’s Superintendent of Education.
  3. Molly Spearman is expected to follow Governor Nikki Haley’s lead on Common Core as South Carolina’s State Superintendent of Education.
  4. Jillian Barlow, Wyoming’s Superintendent-elect, has promised a review of the Common Core.

Where Common Core was a primary issue, those who advocated for it lost.

Advocates are trying to spin this result by pointing to gubernatorial races.

While pro-Common Core superintendent candidates had a rough night, the national situation is more balanced after taking into account gubernatorial races, argues Karen Nussle of the Collaborative for Student Success, a group that defends the standards. Common Core was a central issue in four races, she said in a memo given to The Daily Caller News Foundation, and in three of them the pro-Common Core candidate came out ahead. In New York and Colorado, incumbent Democrats Andrew Cuomo and John Hickenlooper defeated Republican challengers who had targeted their support for Common Core. In Pennsylvania, meanwhile, Democratic Core supporter Tom Wolf unseated Republican Tom Corbett, who reversed his past support of the standards in the run-up to the election and had pledged to seek a full repeal if re-elected. Only in Arizona, where Doug Ducey won an open-seat race against Fred Duval, did a Common Core opponent carry the day in a race where the standards were a significant issue, Nussle said.

Spin aside, it is abundantly clear that advocates in certain races lost because of their support.  I highly doubt that advocates won because of their support.  Gubernatorial races are complex and have a plethora of issues involved that impact the outcome of the race.

With Huppenthal’s Loss in AZ School Chief Race That Makes Barbarians 3, Educrats 0

Diane Douglas beat pro-Common Core incumbent Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal in convincing fashion 57.78% to 41.50% winning over 66,000 more votes according to the Arizona Secretary of State’s office.

The barbarians at the gate crashed through evidently.

Huppenthal is the third incumbent state school chief to go down in flames over supporting the Common Core State Standards.

Indiana’s Tony Bennett was first losing his general election race to Glenda Ritz.  In Oklahoma incumbent school chief Janet Barressi came in third, completely trounced by Joy Hofmeister who won her primary on an anti-Common Core message.

Barbarians 3, Educrats 0.

“Barbarians at the Gate” Press On in Arizona


John Huppenthal

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction John Huppenthal yesterday compared opponents of the Common Core State Standards to “barbarians at the gate.”  He then vowed to fight them to preserve the Gate-funded, top-down, data-less, subpar standards.

The Arizona Capitol Times reports:

Huppenthal said Arizona cannot allow a repeat in Arizona of what happened in Indiana, which pulled out of the association of 45 states that adopted the standards. The U.S. Department of Education has warned the state it is at risk of losing waivers from No Child Left Behind, which effectively means fewer federal dollars.

“I have put my career on the line to stave off the barbarians. I very likely could lose this election,” Huppenthal said. “I’m okay with that because I felt I did the right thing for this education system.”

Huppenthal spoke on a panel at the Arizona Capitol Times’ Morning Scoop.  His chances of losing the election do not appear high:  He said he conducted his own poll from his home of 417 highly likely voters and is up 72 percent to 28 percent on his primary election opponent.

Diane Douglas

Diane Douglas

The news article went south from there describing the fight between moderate Republicans/Democrats against conservatives.  When will these journalists learn this is a non-partisan battle?  They also rehash the tired talking points that Arizona and local school districts will retain control of their own curriculum…. Sure, curriculum that is aligned to the Common Core.  I digress.

Huppenthal is running against Diane Douglas in the Republican primary.  She is a former member of the governing board of the Peoria Unified School District.  She is running to abolish Common Core in Arizona.

The choice is pretty clear.  “Barbarians at the gate” in Arizona (ie. Arizona Moms & Dads) time to bash it down and select a new Superintendent because the one you have would rather insult you than listen to your concerns.