Gov. Doug Ducey presides over civics bill signing

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX (AP) -- Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey touted his education agenda Tuesday as he celebrated the first bill he signed as governor - legislation that makes passage of a civics test a high school graduation requirement.

The Republican governor said he was fulfilling a campaign promise to be a champion for higher school standards by enacting the civics test law. The governor's ceremonial signing of the bill came just days after another bill eliminating the remnants of a comprehensive high school graduation test requirement was signed. He officially signed the civics-test bill nearly six weeks ago.

"It isn't only tests that make students smarter, it's teachers that make students smarter," Ducey said when asked how a civic test could replace reading, math and English requirements in the state's old AIMS test. "And that's really why I've got my budget where we put $134 million more in the classroom and focus on that part of education."

Ducey has been taking heat on that budget because it also requires less spending on student support and administration costs, leaving a net increase of just $11 million.

School superintendents statewide have written a letter to legislators urging them not to embrace the governor's budget proposal because it will force cuts to campus security and layoffs of nurses, psychologist and other support staff.

Ducey's supporters have fired back, with a political group that supported Ducey in his election bid making automated phone calls in some districts.

Tuesday's event was notable for another reason: Ducey's public reconciliation with Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, which included a hug.

The two Republicans engaged in a public spat just two weeks ago, after Douglas fired two executives at the Board of Education and Ducey ordered them reinstated. The spat got personal when Douglas issued a vitriolic news release attacking the governor.

On Tuesday, Ducey said that was water under the bridge and said he called her on Valentine's Day.

"We had a nice conversation. We talked about what we both agree on in education in terms of improving results for our kids and parental choice in education," Ducey said. "And we're going to find a way to work together and move forward."

Douglas hurried from the room without addressing her spat with Ducey, other than to say she hopes legislation will clarify who is in charge of the education board executives.

The new law requires high school students to correctly answer 60 of 100 questions on the civics portion of the U.S. citizenship test. The test is being pushed nationally by the Scottsdale-based Joe Foss Institute.

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