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Ducey, Douglas trade jabs over Az Board of Education firings
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Ducey, Douglas trade jabs over Az Board of Education firings

  • Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, in red, talks with a reporter last month during her visit to the State Capitol to deliver her State of Education address.
    Samantha Shotzbarger/Cronkite News Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, in red, talks with a reporter last month during her visit to the State Capitol to deliver her State of Education address.

She may have run a quiet election campaign, but Arizona schools chief Diane Douglas is embroiled in a very public dispute with Gov. Doug Ducey over who hires and fires the employees of the State Board of Education.

The two may both be Republicans, but there has been little intra-party restraint between the two over the last couple of days.

Thursday, Douglas, narrowly elected as the state superintendent of public instruction in November, said that Ducey "has spent so much time discussing the plain meaning of ‘or vs. and’ as a justification to deprive schools of hundreds of millions of dollars to give to his corporate cronies as tax cuts..."

Ducey said earlier that Douglas does not have the legal authority to fire the top staff of the state board.

Douglas dismissed Christine Thompson, the education board's executive director, and Sabrina Vazquez, the assistant executive director. Thompson was escorted from her office by Department of Public Safety officers Wednesday.

The staff of the 11-member state board, of which Douglas is a member along with appointees of the governor, has continued to work on plans to roll out Arizona's implementation of Common Core testing, AzMERIT, which will measure student achievement according to the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards.

Douglas ran on a platform opposing the Common Core standards.

The president of the state board, Greg Miller, objected to the move by Douglas to fire the staffers.

The body operates independently of the state superintendent of public instruction's office, with members serving four-year terms.

Ducey has said the Douglas acted byeond her authority, and offered office space to the pair while the issue is hashed out — which may take place in the courts.

Thursday, Douglas railed at Ducey, saying he "has refused to take calls or meetings with me personally since his swearing in."

"It is no surprise that his office supports retaining two liberal staff who have publicly stated they will block all efforts to repeal or change Common Core and backs the newly elected President of the Board of Education who is a charter school operator and stands to profit from the Governor’s policy of pushing through AzMerit to lower school scores so that more students can be removed to charter schools," she said in a statement released by her office.

"If the Governor thinks I have to justify hiring or firing at will employees who can be terminated without cause and without rights of appeal, then it brings into question the dozens of agency heads and gubernatorial employees who have been removed and replaced for clearly political reasons. Does the Governor also believe he controls all other elected officials created by the state Constitution? If so, the next ballot should only have one office to vote upon," she said.

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