Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction-elect Diane Douglas will discuss her plans now that she has been elected as Arizona’s top education official.
Ted Simons: Arizona has newly elected superintendent of public instruction. She is Diane Douglas, and her victory surprised many political observers who did not think a single issue candidate with little statewide name recognition would win. Diane Douglas, indeed, won and joins us now on Arizona Horizon. Congratulations on your win, and thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.
Diane Douglas: Thank you for having me back.
Ted Simons: I think that there are a lot of people out there who even now are saying who is Diane Douglas? Who are you?
Diane Douglas: Diane Douglas is a woman that believes so strongly about the importance of the education of our children, I spent the last 20 years studying it, involved with it, serving on school boards and serving on private boards because the most important thing that we do is educate our children to make sure that they have the blessings that America has to offer.
Ted Simons: The critics, you were called everything from a dunce to Evan Meekam on steroids, what do you think of that?
Diane Douglas: Those critics have not even spoken with me, so how much credit do I give them?
Ted Simons: Not much, apparently.
Diane Douglas: Not much. I put my confidence in the voters of Arizona.
Ted Simons: You did debate twice here, but those were things that were required by clean elections. Why not more engage element in those public forums.
Diane Douglas: Because the important thing so me was being out and speaking with the voters. We did plenty of that. Obviously, we spoke to enough that the message got out, and that was our chosen way to engage.
Ted Simons: Some of your critics say you were afraid to debate.
Diane Douglas: I was not afraid to debate. We sat here at this table and I debated very handily.
Ted Simons: Your plans to oversee the state's role on education. This is a big job and an important job. What are those plans?
Diane Douglas: First, we're not going to, as some of my critics have alluded, walk in and just rip things out. We're going to be very thorough now that we have learned that I have won the election. We're going to put a transition team in place as any responsible candidate or, or elected official elect would do so. So absolutely, we're going to look at, at where is the department now, and what are the things that we think are needed. One of the important things to me is that the superintendent of public instruction is the only elected member of our otherwise appointed state board of Ed. I look forward to having a voice on that board and being a voice for the parents because they have been left out, to this point.
Ted Simons: As far as your victory, you stated that your victory was, "clearly a mandate. Do you believe -- that was -- that was a close win, 50.55. Less than 45 turned out to vote, do you think that's a mandate?
Diane Douglas: Absolutely.
Ted Simons: How come?
Diane Douglas: If we had been on equal footing, I was outspent in independent expenditure money almost 700-1. We got our message out. We got our message out to the parents, and those are the people that were at the polls, and they were voting, and they said yes, they want to, a change in direction and education in Arizona.
Ted Simons: Why are you so against common core?
Diane Douglas: Because we have been sold nothing but a marketing plan for it. First of all, and I believe that I said this last time we were here, we know that education is a local issue. We need to decide what's best for the children of Arizona and do it in ways that are proven. You know, Ted, I was looking at the report that came out. I think it just came out within the last few days. It, actually, said prior to common core, Arizona was doing very well, and we were progressing in our education, but yet, for some reason, we have taken it apart. That's not in the best interest of our Arizona children.
Ted Simons: But, there are those in and out of the education establishment, and in and out of the business community who think that common core, as it stands, as opposed to AIMS, as opposed to previous tests, is the best way for Arizona students not only to improve, but to compete and find out how well they are doing against students in other states and around the world.
Diane Douglas: They are confusing just like my opponent did when we were here, confusing standards with the test. They are two different things. The AIMS test was a failure for Arizona because we allowed it to be dumbed down and down and down. Our standards were always rated very highly. We knew what they were. We knew that we had the ability to change them. If we did not think that they were quite right, we could fix them. Now, we have something that's totally out of our control and quite frankly, the people who are supporting them, are saying nothing but marketing slogans, and they have nothing to back it up.
Ted Simons: They are saying that the replacing of the common core would be unnecessarily costly.
Diane Douglas: Putting common core in will be unnecessarily costly.
Ted Simons: Is it not in already?
Diane Douglas: No, it is not.
Ted Simons: But it is implemented?
Diane Douglas: In bits and pieces in parts and places.
Diane Douglas: And we just got the test to prove, did we not? What an interesting process, a closed door discussion and an executive session, and then the state board of Ed comes out and has no public discussion and just takes a vote? That's not the way that I will see the department of education run. When I come in, Ted, there is going to be openness and there is going to be transparency and decision-making.
Ted Simons: If that openness and transparency includes, as many say, and including your critics and folks that are not necessarily all that critical, they are saying, they like common core. They like what they see from common core. Forget about where it comes from or the plan underneath it. They like what they see in the standards and they think that the testing on those makes sense. Would you agree to that?
Diane Douglas: That's not what the voters of Arizona have said, and those are the people to whom I answer.
Ted Simons: If you were presented with a, b, c, and common core, you still would take a, b, or c?
Diane Douglas: If, if they prove to me common core is truly superior, which they have not. They have not built a case. They have done nothing but use catch phrases to, to lead us to believe that it's better. If it were truly better, and the evidence we're seeing and the evidence reported from our parents and the classroom is that it's clearly not, then we are doing the wrong thing by our children, and that's what matters, our children.
Ted Simons: So what do you replace common core with, if you had the -- granted, I think that everyone -- you cannot just walk in there and scratch off the common core, that's something that you cannot do personally. You can lead the crusade.
Diane Douglas: And I never said a that I could. The media did.
Ted Simons: But you can't just walk in there and flip a switch and it's gone. If you could, what would you replace it with?
Diane Douglas: I would replace it with standards that have been proven and tested, and we have several options. Our own Arizona State standards were ranked highly when they were ranked independently. We know Massachusetts had excellent standards, and those were the standards that was, was -- that -- I'm sorry, putting Massachusetts children right up there with all the countries that we claim to want to compete with. We need to do things that we know are in the best interests of our children. But, the reality is, we know, and I have always recognized, that I had to work with others to get it done. Now, we have Governor-elect Ducey. He does not support the common core standards. We have a legislature that knows that this was done behind their backs. This was done by the state board of Ed, not with the, the open discussion of the election process.
Ted Simons: Do you understand why everyone -- the people were complaining for, for not appearing at the debates and the forums and being a single issue candidate, and now, not going ahead with something that a lot of folks in education like with common core.
Diane Douglas: First, who are all these people? We traveled the state and teachers have told me, police gets out from under this. These are the people that we should be listening to, not the academics. Not the ivory tower elite who tell us what we must accept for our children. Parents know what's best for their children.
Ted Simons: Last question, and we appreciate you coming on, you mentioned the ivory tower before in the debate. There is some who suggest that -- the education chief of Arizona should not be so negative on those who have achieved higher education success. How do you respond to that?
Diane Douglas: I have the utmost respect for our classroom teachers because they are the ones that are in there day in and day out. They are the ones that make learning come alive for the children. People that have not spent time in the classroom, and I mean classroom with our children. Not with their own piers. And they have not had to make a budget on the school board or the tough decisions. Those are not the people who are going to serve us the best in education, in my opinion, and obviously, in the opinion of the voters of Arizona.
Ted Simons: Well, the voters have voted, but last question again, I want to rephrase this. Are you not belittling folks in higher education who get advanced degrees? That's the impression that some see.
Diane Douglas: I respect their work. I don't believe that they are the right people to be making decisions. We have had the control of our education system, or we have had our education system under the control of the colleges of education and their beliefs and philosophies for a very long time, but yet, our education system is not where it should be. Now, we're going to turn the corner. We're going to work towards getting parents and classroom teachers with the emphasis that they need to have because they are the ones that know how to get it right.
Ted Simons: More so than those with the advanced degrees and the people that studied them?
Diane Douglas: I think that we can look at 50 years of history.
Ted Simons: It's good to have you here, and thank you very much for joining us.
Diane Douglas: It's been a pleasure to be here, Ted. Thank you very much.
Diane Douglas:Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction;