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Senate Panel To Douglas: You Don't Have Power Over Board Of Education Employees

Rebuffing claims she should be in charge of education policy, a state Senate panel voted Thursday to take away some of the powers claimed by Arizona schools chief Diane Douglas.

The legislation approved by the Education Committee makes clear that the Board of Education-- not the superintendent-- has the power to hire, fire and supervise its own employees. Douglas has gone to court to argue they report to her. It also spells out that it is the board, all of whose members other than the superintendent are appointed by the governor, that sets education policy.

And it says while Douglas is elected directly by voters, her role is simply to carry out that policy. That did not sit well with Douglas, who said, "Imagine how you would feel if someone would introduce a bill that would make you a legislator in name only. Imagine it went further and delegated your authority to unelected appointees and staff members."

Douglas said the legislation ignores her constitutional role as superintendent of public instruction. "The superintendent is the only elected body at the state level, in the state board, in education, to speak for the people of Arizona."

But Sen. Jeff Dial, who crafted the measure, dismissed that argument, saying, "The governor is also elected by the people. And I think people pay more attention to the governor's race. I think they pay more attention to the governor's race than my own race."

Douglas, however, said whoever is state's schools chief should have more say over education policy than the governor. "Our governor does great work in many, many areas. But the superintendent is the elected executive officer whose sole mandate is the education of the children of Arizona,'' Douglas continued. "And I think the people of Arizona pay very close attention to that election because it is their only voice in that particular area."

Douglas did back away from claims, made just a day earlier, that the legislation is unconstitutional. She conceded that the Arizona Constitution does say it is up to the Legislature to determine both her duties and those of the board.