Diane Douglas doubts Gov. Doug Ducey’s school overhaul plan timing

Jun 2, 2015, 3:53 PM | Updated: 5:06 pm
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PHOENIX — Arizona’s top education official said Tuesday she has serious
doubts about Gov. Doug Ducey’s timeline for overhauling the state’s complex
school financing formulas.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said that while she supports
revamping the cumbersome funding formulas, Ducey’s wish to come up with a plan
by the end of the year may be far too ambitious.

Douglas said she worries a rush to overhaul the financing formulas will have
unintended consequences.

“Do we want to be talking about it for 10 years like some organizations I was
involved with when I was on the school board did — I think we can do it faster
than that,” she said. “But I think this is an important time in Arizona’s
education, that we need to make sure what we do, we do right. And it’s not an
easy thing.”

Ducey last month announced the members of his Classrooms First Initiative
Council, which is charged with coming up with an interim plan by September and a
final proposal by December.

“While I’ve been a strong proponent of looking at our funding formulas for a
very long time … I’m not sure that type of timeline is going to serve us
well,” Douglas said.

Douglas is on the council, as are many professional educators. The Legislature
would have to change state law to enact the plan.

Douglas made the comments during an hour-long meeting with reporters in a Board
of Education office. She also discussed her ongoing legal battle with the Board
of Education and her analysis that the new state budget actually cut more
funding for charter schools than lawmakers believed.

Her position on the charter school cuts puts her at odds with the Legislature’s
official budget analysts, who issued a report last week saying that the budget
did not completely cut one element of funding for small charters as Douglas
contends.

Douglas has asked Attorney General Mark Brnovich for a formal opinion of what
the budget law says. She said she’s under pressure to ignore her own analysis
and fund charters bases on what the Legislature thought they were voting on and
not what the law actually says.

“And so they want us to just disregard that, but the legislation is what the
legislation is,” Douglas said. “And we do not at the department interpret the
law, we apply the law.”

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Diane Douglas doubts Gov. Doug Ducey’s school overhaul plan timing