Arizona’s top school official has started a Republican civil war with Gov. Doug Ducey, accusing him of sabotaging her efforts to roll back Common Core in the state.
The feud began Wednesday when Arizona state superintendent Diane Douglas abruptly fired two high-level employees of the State Board of Education due to their support for Common Core and ongoing work to prepare for the administration of new Core-aligned standardized tests. Douglas was elected last November on a platform exclusively dedicated to eliminating the standards, and saw removing the two as a step to fulfilling that goal.
On Thursday, however, Ducey overruled Douglas, allowing the two workers to keep their jobs. Douglas, he said, lacks the constitutional authority to unilaterally fire board employees.
Douglas has responded poorly, to say the least. Just hours later, her office released a stinging statement entitled “Arizona Superintendent of Public Schools Diane Douglas Did Not See Doug Ducey’s Name on the Ballot for State Superintendent.”
In the statement, Douglas accuses Ducey of being party to a hidden conspiracy, saying he has “established a shadow faction of charter school operators and former state Superintendents who support Common Core and moving funds from traditional public schools to charter schools.”
Douglas suggested that Ducey was being dishonest during his campaign when he indicated that he also opposed Common Core.
“If he would spend time selecting Board members it would also reveal whether he is actually for or against Common Core. Perhaps that is the cause for his reticence,” Douglas said.
The statement went even further, airing other dirty laundry between the two Republicans. Douglas complained the Ducey “has refused to take calls or meetings with me personally since his swearing in.” She even suggested Ducey may be a racist, castigating him for not moving to put a black person on the state school board. Blacks make up just 3 percent of Arizona’s population.
Ducey quickly shot back with his own short statement, saying he was “disappointed” in how Douglas was behaving.
On Friday morning, Douglas appeared to reconsider her rhetoric, giving a press conference that had a more conciliatory tone while refusing to yield her position.
“I believe I am within my rights with the action I took,” Douglas said. However, she said she would be negotiating with Ducey to resolve the “ambiguity” in the law rather than filing a lawsuit, as she said spending resources on a legal battle would not serve the state’s children well.
As of publication, it is unclear what form if any these negotiations will take. Douglas declined to take questions, meaning that it is also unclear whether a lawsuit remains a possibility if Douglas does not ultimately have her way.
If Douglas were to sue Ducey, it wouldn’t be the first time a superintendent and a governor clashed in the courts over Common Core. In Louisiana, Gov. Bobby Jindal has joined a lawsuit against superintendent John White and his state board, arguing they acted illegally by implementing Common Core and defying his executive orders to replace the standards.
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