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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


What Superintendent Diane Douglas had to say in today’s State of Education address

Gage Skidmore
Superintendent of Arizona Department of Education, Diane Douglas, at a campaign rally in Phoenix in August 2014. Photo Courtesy by Gage Skidmore.

During her annual State of Education address to the Arizona House Committee on Education, Superintendent of Public Instruction for the state of Arizona, Diane Douglas was cautiously confident that Arizona education has a bright future.

“The current state of education in Arizona is hopeful, but skeptical,” Douglas said, beginning her address.

Using the classic Peanuts cartoon of Lucy pulling the football away just before Charlie Brown kicks it as a metaphor, Douglas warned the house not to “temporarily placate the public” with short-term fixes and the resolution of lawsuits such as the recently resolved 2010 lawsuit in which school districts and charter schools sued the state claiming that the state shorted them during the Great Recession. The lawsuit was ultimately resolved when Gov. Doug Ducey signed three bills that would ultimately pump $3.5 billion back in to the public education system.

Read the Daily Wildcat’s coverage of the lawsuit here.

However, a large chunk of Douglas’ speech was spent highlighting the reasons that education has a hopeful future despite the fact that Arizona’s national ranking for education has stagnated for yet another year, at a D+.

Douglas’ major new initiative, AZ Kids Can’t Afford to Wait! education plan, was frequently referenced during the speech.

The plan is a formal, comprehensive approach for the improvement of education in the state. Using feedback and commentary from Arizona’s educators, students and parents, it actually attempts to utilize and set forth constituent feedback in the creation of education legislation.

Much of the feedback used in this plan was collected during a talking tour that Douglas has been doing throughout school districts in the state.

“The call for more education funding was loud and clear,” Douglas said, referring to the comments she received during her tours. “No other topic came close in terms of the volume and feedback that I received in regards to funding.”

Douglas also called for the federal government to release more federally held land to the state in order for it to be used as state land-trust revenue — which would then become a revenue source for public schools — a call similar to one that has been made by the Arizona Board of Regents to help fund higher education.

The state land trust was created in 1912 to help fund education, and Arizona lawmakers have recently been looking to the federal government to bolster Arizona’s land trust reserves in order to further fund education in lieu of raising taxes.

Douglas concluded her address by outlining her stance on the purpose of the state’s public education system.

“The purpose of Arizona’s education system is not simply to create a long line of college applicants and worker bees,” Douglas concluded. “Our children are not a source of human capital that exists only to feed the economy.”

Follow Sam Gross on Twitter.

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