State Superintendent Diane Douglas

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State Superintendent Diane Douglas will talk about a variety of subjects, including her new education plan, which includes $400 million in new funding.

TED SIMONS: Coming up next on "Arizona Horizon," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas joins us in studio. And we'll look at a new report that shows a particular brain disease in many former NFL players. Those stories next on "Arizona Horizon." "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

VIDEO: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the Friends of Eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

TED SIMONS: Good evening, and welcome to "Arizona Horizon," I'm Ted Simons. Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio took the witness stand again in his contempt of court hearing and Arpaio again he denied investigating the judge hearing the case. On his fourth day on the stand he was asked by his own attorney if he ever investigated federal Judge Murray Snow. He gave a one-word answer: No. The answer was the same when he was asked if he asked anyone else to investigate Judge Snow. There were claims that the judge was a possible victim of a federal bank-hacking scheme. Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas has generated her share of headlines in her time in office for a variety of reasons, including feuds with the Board of Education and recently an education funding plan that directs 400 million dollars to teachers. Joining us now, Superintendent Diane Douglas.

DIANE DOUGLAS: Nice to be here again, Ted, thank you very much.

TED SIMONS: Thank you for being here. Let's start with the funding plan, we'll take it from there, we've got things to talk about here but this plan, $400 million to teachers and/or reducing class size? Is that the money we're talking about here?

DIANE DOUGLAS: Exactly. And that's just a very small part of the plan that we are calling Arizona kids can't afford to wait. There are so many issues we need to address so make sure we continue to improve our education system. But we're looking at an immediate infusion of $400 million. We believe that's sustainable based on the revenue carry-over and the projections of increased revenues for this year. We want to make sure it gets either into the classroom and teachers' salaries or that we address classroom size reduction. I spent this spring out on the "we are listening" tour. Overwhelmingly, that's the feedback we heard from the community, whether it was rural or urban, conservative or a more liberal area, teacher funding, we want our teachers well paid and respected.

TED SIMONS: Would the $400 million be in addition to the inflation funding settlement?

DIANE DOUGLAS: The inflation funding settlement we're not a part of. We'll let the legislature and the districts work that out. I see this as an immediate infusion and then they need to work out their legal issues.

TED SIMONS: I ask because the critics say if this is additional money coming, you could be up to as much as 700 some odd million dollars in additional money per year and they're saying that's not sustainable.

DIANE DOUGLAS: We believe the $400 million can be sustainable. Arizona ranks very low in education funding. We need to get the funds to our children to make sure they get the best educational opportunities for their future. We know the legislature is going to spend the money. I want to see it spent on Arizona children.

TED SIMONS: Senate President Andy Biggs was on and we asked about your idea. He says it's easy for you to do this when you don't have to deal with the budget he says the money isn't there and certainly isn't sustainable. Respond please.

DIANE DOUGLAS: We do believe it is sustainable, based on the revenues that have come in. And the plan as it moves out over several years then shifts some of that to the state land trust. But it does not touch the corpus or the principle of the trust. I believe as much as that principle belongs to the children 100 years ago, it belongs to our children now and belongs to children in Arizona schools 100 years from now. We need to make that money work better for the schoolchildren of Arizona.

TED SIMONS: The Governor plans to use the state land trust fund, not a huge fan of that?

DIANE DOUGLAS: I'm concerned about the effects on the principle. I'm also concerned that although I have directed and I've asked that the money for the $400 million be directed to the classroom for teacher salaries or class size reduction, generally I'm more a fan of letting our local districts decide how to control that. But overwhelmingly we've heard our teachers need some help.

TED SIMONS: I want to get back to funding issues in a second here. Your plan talks about common core, it's adios, we understand that. How do you find accountability? How do you know kids are learning what they are supposed to be learning?

DIANE DOUGLAS: We're talking about two different things. First of all, I would like to see the state board take an action to reverse the putting common core in place in our schools. I recognize that's not going to change the standard in and of itself. But it's going to make a statement that Arizonans are smart enough, engaged enough to make sure our children have the standards they need to be successful. The Department of Education has had a process in place by which we review standards on an ongoing basis to make sure they are good enough and high enough and rigorous enough for our students. It's only since common core has come in that those standards were set aside and not looked at for five years. That's not typical.

TED SIMONS: For someone listening, Arizona can have its own plan for Arizona students and ignore what's been developed for years, including input from Arizona.

DIANE DOUGLAS: Not really.

TED SIMONS: That can be debated on this program, how much input Arizona has had on common core in general. But the fact is, why are you so confident that Arizona can do it better?

DIANE DOUGLAS: Because we had standards that were at least on par with common core standards before we totally disrupted the system five years ago. Our standards were actually arguably higher. Common core standards have no higher level math, and we're saying we want our children to be college and career ready, but yet there's no trigonometry, no calculus. If you look at the English language arts standards, we have a wide breadth of cultures in Arizona and there's room for none of those in the common core standards.

TED SIMONS: You mentioned the cultures in your education plan, but you don't want divisive instruction, you don't want hate kind of instruction.

DIANE DOUGLAS: Critical race theory, that's very different.

TED SIMONS: What is that and where is it happening?

DIANE DOUGLAS: It's what the issues have been over in Tucson for many years. It's teaching basically one race over another. That's not the way to bring children together in my opinion. We need to teach our children that we all have had a very important place in the development of Arizona. But we can't do it in a way that makes one group of people or one group of children feel either excluded or superior to another. We've had the laws changed. You know, there was the law put on the books that that can't be taught in Arizona. The Department of Education, we've spent a lot of time while I've been in office monitoring, working with Superintendent Sanchez down in Tucson, actually doing classroom visits, looking at their lesson plans, their curriculum, helping them develop things that are inclusive. That's what I want to see for all of Arizona. I want it to be the same in Window Rock as in Scottsdale and in Tucson.

TED SIMONS: We understand the funding and the obstruction ideas and other aspects of your plan, we've talked about that on the program before. How are you going to get the Governor, the Legislature, the Board of Education to go along with these ideas when you seem to be fussing and fighting with them?

DIANE DOUGLAS: Well, we have some issues that need to be resolved clearly. But the reality is what we're talking about here with Arizona's kids can't afford to wait, there always have been, there always will be political battles, political differences of opinion. But we're talking here about what's doing best for the children of Arizona. And we need to come to the table, put aside political differences and say, those may be resolved in the courtroom, they may be resolved somewhere else. But these issues should be discussed straight up.

TED SIMONS: With that being said, are you back now to attending Board of Education meetings?

DIANE DOUGLAS: You know, Ted, the Constitution requires me to sit on every single board or commission that has anything to do with education in Arizona. And we look at each and every agenda. We looked at my travel schedule, we look at a whole bunch of different things. Unfortunately the last two -- several, a special meeting and the last board meeting, they were trying to litigate issues in the boardroom instead of the courtroom where they belong. And when the agendas are such and my schedule is such that I can be there, and we can move education forward for Arizona children, I'm delighted to do that. But the reality is that's not where it's been coming from lately, and nothing would have changed. The business was carried on.

TED SIMONS: But still, will you plan on attending future Board of Education meetings?

DIANE DOUGLAS: Like I said last week, when they put on striking common core from the agenda, I'll be there. But I will be there to advance the work of the children of Arizona.

TED SIMONS: And there are those who say it can help the work of the children of the Arizona, advancing them will be helped when you and the Board of Education bury respective hatchets and get on to helping kids. Your suit against the Board, the judge tossed it. Are you still pursuing that?

DIANE DOUGLAS: The courts did not rule on the merits of the law, for a reason I can't even begin to understand. The Court ruled they can't read the law and can't make a decision on the law. The law is the Governor, very crystal clear, 15, 203, 301, and 251, that assigns certainly responsibilities to each level. Whether it defines the structure of the Department of Education, the duties and responsibilities of the state board and the duties and responsibilities of the superintendent. They are very clear and I'm just asking for the people of Arizona who elected me to -- to oversee the department and to have a certain constitutional authority that I be allowed to do so.

TED SIMONS: But the judge saw it another way.

DIANE DOUGLAS: The judge ruled that the judge couldn't rule on the law.

TED SIMONS: Political as opposed to --

DIANE DOUGLAS: But it's not political. These are very clear issues on who can hire. The law is very clear on issues like that. So we're just asking to make sure that we protect the constitutional duties of the office.

TED SIMONS: And again, this idea of who has the power and who hires and who fires, this has now led to the board filing suit against you for not fulfilling your duties. This idea of limiting access for teacher misconduct files and stuff like that, do they have a point? Are you helping that process along?

DIANE DOUGLAS: The -- no. Absolutely, they can investigate as they see fit. But what they are asking for is off site, pretty much unfettered access to files that are very highly confidential. Certainly teachers wouldn't want anybody to be able to hack in. Our own staff -- certification staff at the department is not allowed outside access to these files. That's how confidential they are deemed. And basically all they can do is come in and -- and determine whether the correct person is being brought up for, whether it's revocation or suspension of their certification license. That's what we're talking about. The department, neither the investigators nor the certification, we don't have guns and badges. We don't go into schools and investigate wrongdoing. We just make sure that the right charges are being brought against the right person. And as a matter of fact, we've found since they are bringing -- we have offices, they need to do face-to-face interviews with teachers when they come into the department. To be a block or two blocks away is not even feasible. We're finding that they are clearing cases faster when they come in and work where they are assigned to work.

TED SIMONS: One of the reasons they are not there working, they are saying your guys were shadowing people, they were harassing people, what's going on with that?

DIANE DOUGLAS: That's a false charge. Nothing has happened that interrupted the work flow. That was just an excuse to justify an end.

TED SIMONS: The movement out of building?

DIANE DOUGLAS: Correct.

TED SIMONS: And one more thing regarding the suit. They are saying that as far as taking down the old website and redirecting to their new website, that you're not cooperating.

DIANE DOUGLAS: They have their website. We are talking about the Superintendent of Public Instruction who, by the constitution of the state of Arizona, is the secretary for the State Board of Education. Which means I have the legal and constitutional duty to make sure that there are minutes of the board meeting. Now we've -- we have delegated that and allowed that process to happen through them, when the relationship was better, and they were making appropriate minutes. But some changes in things have been made. So they can have their website with their minutes. But this is a ministerial duty of my office, is to maintain a website. And I can put on it whatever's appropriate to the education of children.

TED SIMONS: As far as this suit is concerned and your suit, as well, in general -- we're not even getting to the assault claim against Greg Miller, the Board of Education. We had him on the program, he said he did not assault you, the whole thing is ridiculous.

DIANE DOUGLAS: Listen to the video -- I'm sorry, listen to the audio. I think it's a very fair representation of what happened as best an audio can be but it's very clear.

TED SIMONS: With in that mind, that situation, your suit against the board and the board's suit against you. There are folks saying, what about the kids? Is any of this helping education in Arizona?

DIANE DOUGLAS: I think that making sure that constitutional offices and our rule of law is protected is a very important part of my job that I've been vested with so I will do that. But as far as the lawsuit and these -- they are not even distractions in the department. We work each and every day. One of the things that absolutely amazed me when I came into this office was the commitment, the determination of the people that work there. I'm blessed to work with an amazingly dedicated staff. And I can assure you that while there are legal issues to be resolved and there's questions that need to be answered, each and every day our focus is 100% on the children of Arizona.

TED SIMONS: With that in mind, for those who say you're more concern with feuds and who has the right power and the constitutional aspect, as opposed to pure education, you say:

DIANE DOUGLAS: I say that it is an important part of our process, that we protect our elected offices. It doesn't matter whether Diane Douglas is in the office or Joe Smith or Sue Jones 20 years from now on 50 years from now. We've set up a system of laws. And sometimes questions have to be answered and they have to be resolved. That happens. In the meantime at the department we proudly carry on for the children of Arizona.

TED SIMONS: Last question, do you think you could have handled all this better?

DIANE DOUGLAS: I think we did the best we have with the circumstances that we were handed.

TED SIMONS: All right. Good to see you. Thank you so much for joining us, we appreciate it.

DIANE DOUGLAS: Wonderful to be back again, thank you, Ted.

Diane Douglas:State Superintendent

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