Bill to settle Douglas-Ducey Board of Education fight dies

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PHOENIX (AP) - A bill designed to prevent future fights over who controls employees of the state Board of Education died Wednesday in the Arizona House after conservatives revolted against what they saw as a weakening of the state school superintendent's power.

The proposal was negotiated in the weeks after a public turf battle erupted between Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas.

Douglas fired two board executives in early February, only to have her actions overturned by Ducey. She then sent out a vitriolic written news release that attacked Ducey.

Douglas allowed the two executives to return to work, but she imposed strict oversight over them for a brief period.

Ducey and Douglas made up quickly, and the Legislature then moved to clarify that the board oversees its employees, not Douglas. She leads the Department of Education.

Behind the scenes was the battle over Common Core schools standards, which are adopted by the Board of Education. Douglas thought the board's executives supported Common Core.

Douglas approved of the bill clarifying who oversees the board's employees. It passed the Senate with just two "no" votes earlier this month.

But the House rejected the bill last week and had set a reconsideration vote for Wednesday. That vote never happened because there was just too much opposition. That means the bill is dead for the session.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said Ducey was trying to take Douglas' power and vowed Wednesday morning that House Bill 2184 would go down.

"The Superintendent of Public Instruction is an elected voice for the parents and should have broad authority over education so that they can represent the parents," Townsend said. "What this bill does is just lines out part of her job. Whether her office wanted it, wrote it, whatever, the people elected her."

The initial House rejection came a day after Ducey asked the Board of Education to review Common Core standards and replace problem areas. But he fell short of calling for their immediate replacement, angering conservatives. He also said a bill in the Legislature that would have ended Common Core was unnecessary.

Ducey spokesman Daniel Scarpinato said Wednesday that the governor is "moving ahead with his priorities for the board - improving K-12 education and replacing Common Core with Arizona standards."
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