Superintendent Diane Douglas explains her objections to the teacher walkout


TED SIMONS: NOT EVERYONE IN EDUCATION SUPPORTS THE TEACHERS-WALKOUT. SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION DIANE DOUGLAS IS ASKING TEACHERS TO GET BACK TO THEIR CLASSROOMS WHILE LAWMAKERS WORK ON THE GOVERNORS PROPOSAL TO INCREASE TEACHER PAY. SUPERINTENDENT DOUGLAS JOINS US NOW. IT'S GOOD TO SEE YOU. THANK YOU FOR JOINING US ON A BUSY DAY.

DIANE DOUGLAS: THANK YOU FOR HAVING ME BACK, TED.

TED SIMONS: GENERAL THOUGHTS ON THE WALKOUT?

DIANE DOUGLAS: NUMBER ONE, IT'S ILLEGAL, BUT THEIR DUTY IS TO STUDENTS AND PARENTS FIRST AND FOREMOST. THEY ARE PUBLIC SERVANTS. NO ONE HAS BEEN MORE SYMPATHETIC THAN I THE PLIGHTS OF EDUCATION AND TEACHER PAY, BUT NONETHELESS, THEY NEED TO BE IN THE CLASSROOMS AS WE WORK THROUGH THIS.

TED SIMONS: WILL YOU SUPPORT THE WALKOUT?

DIANE DOUGLAS: IF THERE IS A COMPLAINT, WE'LL INVESTIGATE IT. WHETHER IT'S BECAUSE OF THE STROKE, OR INAPPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR, IF SOMEONE FILES A COMPLAINT, WE HAVE TO INVESTIGATE.

TED SIMONS: IT'S POSSIBLE A LOT OF PEOPLE WILL FILE A COMPLAINT. DO YOU HAVE THE RESOURCES FOR THAT?

DIANE DOUGLAS: I THINK THAT WILL BE A CHALLENGE FOR US, BUT IT IS OUR DUTY TO DO IT.

TED SIMONS: IF SOMEONE FILES A COMPLAINT, TEACHER X DIDN'T SHOW UP FOR CLASS, FORCED THE SCHOOL DISTRICT TO CLOSE ONE, TWO, MORE DAYS. WOULD YOU RECOMMEND DISCIPLINARY ACTION?

DIANE DOUGLAS: MY JOB FROM THIS SEAT WILL INVESTIGATE AND MAKE MY DECISION. WE TAKE IT TO A BOARD CALLED PRE-PAC PROFESSIONAL ADVISORY COMMITTEE. THEY MAKE THE RECOMMENDATION AND I HAVE A VOTE ON THE BOARD.

TED SIMONS: IF THEY RECOMMEND NO DISCIPLINARY ACTION BECAUSE THERE ARE TOO MANY TEACHERS TAKING PART, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?

DIANE DOUGLAS: IT COULD BE NO ACTION TO REVOCATION OR SUSPENSION. THE BOARD ROUTINELY, AND MONDAY, WE ISSUED A LETTER OF CENSURE TO A TEACHER WHO WALKED FROM HER CONTRACT -- HIS OR HER, I DON'T REMEMBER IF IT WAS A MAN OR WOMAN.

TED SIMONS: DO YOU THINK TEACHERS IN TODAY'S WALK OUT DESERVE A CERTIFICATE OF CENSURE OR MORE?

DIANE DOUGLAS: I DON'T WANT TO SEE THEM OUT OF THE CLASSROOM MORE, BUT THEY ARE WALKING OUT ON OUR CHILDREN, OUR MOST PRECIOUS RESOURCE, AND IF THEY ARE OUT FOR ANY LENGTH OF TIME, THINKING ABOUT THE SPECIAL EDUCATION CHILDREN, THE DAMAGE DONE MAY BE IRREPARABLE TO THE CHILDREN. WHERE IS OUR DUTY?

TED SIMONS: ARE YOU THREATENING TEACHERS?

DIANE DOUGLAS: ABSOLUTELY NOT. I'M TRYING TO TELL THEM WHAT THE PROCESS IS. WHAT I DON'T WANT TO HEAR AFTERWARDS IS WE DIDN'T KNOW THAT. IF WE KNEW MAYBE WE WOULD HAVE DONE SOMETHING DIFFERENT. I WANT TO BE SURE THEY KNOW WHAT THE PROCESS IS.

TED SIMONS: CAN YOU AFFORD DISCIPLINARY ACTION AGAINST SO MANY -- 50,000 TEACHERS TOOK PART IN THE MARCH TODAY.

DIANE DOUGLAS: IF IT IS AN UNLAWFUL ACT, IS THE NUMBER OF PEOPLE THAT PARTICIPATE LESS THAN THE SEVERITY OF IT? THAT'S A RHETORICAL QUESTION. IT'S ONE I'LL RANGEL WITH. IF WE GET 50 PEOPLE TO GO INTO A STORE AND SHOPLIFT, DO WE SAY IT'S 50 PEOPLE, SO NO CONSEQUENCES. WHAT ABOUT SPEEDING? NOT EVERYBODY GETS CAUGHT, BUT SOME DO. THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES. DOES THAT MEAN WE TAKE DOWN THE SPEED LIMIT SIGNS ON THE SPEEDWAY.

TED SIMONS: IT DOES MEAN JUDICIARY LOOKS AT THE ARGUMENT. YOU COULD BE PART OF THE PROCESS.

DIANE DOUGLAS: AS A STATE BOARD MEMBER, WE'LL COME.

TED SIMONS: WHAT ARE YOU DOING FOR THIS PROCESS?

DIANE DOUGLAS: I WAS ON HORIZON TALKING ABOUT THE PROP 301 PROPOSAL -- I THOUGHT I WAS HERE -- YOU WERE. IT WOULD HAVE BEEN AN 11% INCREASE, $5,000, AND A SMALL INCREASE IN SALES TAX. I WISH I HAD 50,000 PEOPLE WALKING TO THE CAPITOL WITH ME WHEN THE LEGISLATURE WAS TALKING ABOUT PROP 301.

TED SIMONS: WITH THAT IN MIND, WITH THESE FOLKS MARCHING, WHAT DO YOU HAVE IN MIND? A LOT OF PEOPLE THINK YOU REPRESENT THE TEACHERS. NOT THE CASE, IS IT?

DIANE DOUGLAS: THAT IS NOT THE CASE. I REPRESENT THE CITIZENS OF ARIZONA AND THEIR VOICE IN EDUCATION. THE SUPERINTENDENT IS THE ONLY ELECTED OFFICIAL IN STATEWIDE LEVEL IN THE EDUCATION OF THEIR CHILDREN AND GRANDCHILDREN. THAT'S WHERE MY DUTY IS. OUR DUTY IS TO PROVIDE GUIDANCE. WE ARE NOT AT THE TABLE WITH THE GOVERNOR. APPROPRIATIONS, IT'S THEIR JOB AND RESPONSIBILITY. WE MAKE SURE IF THERE ARE ISSUES ABOUT SCHOOL FINANCE, WHAT ARE THE REPERCUSSIONS AND WHAT THE DUTIES ARE FOR THE DISTRICT FOR STUDENTS WITH IEP OR FREE AND REDUCED LUNCH, THAT'S OUR ROLE TO PLAY TO BE SURE TO GET GOOD INFORMATION.

TED SIMONS: AS FAR AS TESTING IS CONCERNED, AS FAR AS GRADUATION IS CONCERNED, AS FAR AS THE REQUIRED NUMBER OF SCHOOL DAYS AND EXTENDING THE SCHOOL YEAR TO GET THOSE IN, AND THAT’S YOU, ISN'T IT?

DIANE DOUGLAS: ALL WE CAN DO IS ADVISE THEM AND LET THEM KNOW WHAT THEIR DUTIES WILL BE TO MAKE UP SCHOOL DAYS. IT SADDENS ME TO LOOK AT YOUNG MEN AND WOMEN LOOKING AT GRADUATION. WE HAVE HAD THAT QUESTION ALREADY, WHAT HAPPENS WITH GRADUATION? WHAT HAPPENS IF THE SCHOOL YEAR IS EXTENDED AND IMPAIRS A COLLEGE ADMISSION OR ADMISSION TO THE MILITARY? THIS IS UNCHARTERED TERRITORY FOR ARIZONA. I WAS IMPLORING PEOPLE NOT TO GO DOWN THIS ROAD.

TED SIMONS: YOU HAVE GUIDANCE FOR THEM?

DIANE DOUGLAS: AZED.GOV, THERE IS GUIDANCE. A LOT OF IT IS UNKNOWN. THE IMPLICATIONS MAY CHANGE DEPENDING ON THE LENGTH OF THE STRIKE.

TED SIMONS: LAST QUESTION, THERE ARE THOSE THAT SAY THE STRIKE IS A PLOY. THERE ARE OTHERS THAT SAY THE GOVERNOR'S TEACHER PAY INCREASE IS A POLITICAL PLOY. WHERE DO YOU STAND?

DIANE DOUGLAS: I THINK THE GOVERNOR NEEDS TO BE ABLE TO EXPLAIN WHERE THE RESOURCES WILL COME FROM AND HOW WE GET THIS THROUGH THE BUDGET.

TED SIMONS: HAS HE DONE THAT?

DIANE DOUGLAS: I BELIEVE HE WAS DOING THAT WITH THE LEGISLATURE. HE WAS ON A SHOW I WAS ON TODAY TALKING ABOUT WHERE THE FUNDING WOULD COME FROM AND THE PROJECTIONS OF THE BUDGET. WE CAN ONLY BUDGET ONE YEAR AT A TIME. IT'S AN UNKNOWN VARIABLE, BUT THEY ARE BRINGING GOOD INFORMATION FORWARD. AS FAR AS THE OTHER SIDE, I BELIEVE IT'S POLITICS.

TED SIMONS: IN WHAT WAY?

DIANE DOUGLAS: THE TWO GENTLEMEN -- I RESPECT AEA, AND THEY HAVE AN ELECTED PRESIDENT WHO IS ELECTED BY THEIR MEMBERSHIP TO REPRESENT THEM. RED FOR ED IS BASICALLY TWO GENTLEMEN THAT OPENED UP A FACEBOOK PAGE AND SPEAK FOR THE PEOPLE OF ARIZONA.

TED SIMONS: 50,000 PEOPLE FOLLOW THEIR LEAD. THEY ARE DE FACTO LEADERS OF THE MOVEMENT.

DIANE DOUGLAS: SO THEY MAY BE, BUT I THINK WE SHOULD QUESTION THEIR MOTIVATES AND HOW THIS CAME TO BE. OUR PARENTS AND TEACHERS DESERVE TO KNOW.

TED SIMONS: YOU QUESTION THEIR MOTIVATES?

DIANE DOUGLAS: MOST CERTAINLY. I HAVE SEEN THEIR BACK GROUND. ONE GENTLEMAN, AND I WOULD RATHER NOT GET INTO NAMES. ONE MAN IS ON A PROVISIONAL CERTIFICATION, AND HAS BEEN A PROVISIONAL CERTIFIED TEACHER FOR A YEAR AND A HALF AND THE OTHER ONLY A CERTIFICATE SINCE JANUARY 2018.

TED SIMONS: DOES THAT MAKE THEM LESS OF A SPOKESMAN FOR A MOVEMENT?

DIANE DOUGLAS: YOU CAN LOOK IN THE POLITICAL BACKGROUNDS. I'M CONCERNED THAT SOME OF OUR LONG-TIME, VERY PROFESSIONAL, QUALIFIED TEACHERS MAY BE BEING LED DOWN A BAD ROAD.

TED SIMONS: SUPERINTENDENT DIANE DOUGLAS, THANK YOU FOR BEING HERE.

DIANE DOUGLAS: THANK YOU, TED.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas explains why she is against the teacher walkout, and what consequences they may face.

Because the teachers are under contract with their district, Douglas says it is illegal for teachers to strike in Arizona. As public servants, she says that teachers should remain in the classroom teaching “while we work through this.” The duty of teachers is to put their students and parents first, and in her view, by walking out they are not doing that.

“If there is a complaint made with the department, we will investigate,” Douglas says. “That’s our duty, whether it’s because of the strike or whether it’s because of inappropriate classroom behavior. Whatever the reason may be, if they file a complaint it’s our duty to investigate.”

Teachers may receive anything from no action at all to a letter of censure or suspension. Douglas says the board has already received some complaints, and they issued a letter of censure to a teacher who walked out of their contract on Monday. A letter of censure is essentially a written warning to the individual explainingwhat can happen if they break the rules again.

“I certainly don’t want to see them out of the classroom anymore than they are. I think I will wrangle with my conscious on whether or not they will get a letter of censure. They’re walking out on our children, our most precious resource.”

Arizona is already facing a teacher shortage as many depart for states who will over them a better pay. With over 50,000 teachers participating in the walkout, there’s a question of whether or not Arizona can afford to reprimand teachers and risk losing still more of them.

“If it’s an unlawful act, does the number of people who participate lessen the severity of it?” Douglas says. “That’s a rhetorical question and it’s one I’ll wrangle with. Just think of any other crime.”

Douglas believes that more people should pay attention to the backgrounds of the people leading the #RedForEd campaign. According to Douglas, some of them have taught in Arizona for only a short time. She says she is “concerned that some of our longtime, very professional, very qualified teachers may be being led down a bad road.”

When it comes to what the Education Board and Superintendent can do to help, Douglas says their duty is to continue giving guidance. With so many unknowns, everyone is looking for answers. She also says it’s important to know she isn’t there to represent the teachers and students.

“I represent the citizens of Arizona and their voice in education,” Douglas says. “The superintendent is the only elected voice at the statewide level that they have in the education of their children and grandchildren. Our duty is to provide guidance.”

For more information on the walkout and how the Education Board plays a role, visit azed.gov.

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Diane Douglas: AZ Superintendent of Public Instruction 

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