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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Bill seeks to end ABOR

The Arizona Board of Regents would cease to exist under a new bill up for debate in the Arizona Legislature.

Senate Bill 1115 would pass sweeping changes to the state’s education system, namely eliminating the board and replacing it with an individual board of trustees for each Arizona university. The bill would also designate the Polytechnic campus at Arizona State University as a separate, independent entity.

Sen. Andy Biggs, a Republican from Gilbert, Ariz., who chairs the Senate Appropriations Committee, introduced the bill. ASU’s Polytechnic campus is within the borders of his district.

During committee meetings on Wednesday, Biggs said downsizing the government was “”the theme people are going for.””

Anne Mariucci, the chair of the regents, released a statement criticizing the proposal.

“”One part of the proposal calls for separate boards for each university,”” Mariucci wrote. ””That piece alone would result in redundancy, duplication of programs, higher costs of education and operation, and provide no formal mechanism for collaboration and coordination among the universities.””  

Mariucci also said the bill could potentially create new costs to students and Arizona taxpayers and reduce the accountability universities have to the Legislature. She said that universities need to “”modernize, streamline, and reform”” in order to continue to meet the needs of Arizona students in the face of falling state funding.

“”It is a tough balancing act, but one that regents are determined and united to implement,”” Mariucci said. “”Adding additional cost burdens with weaker oversight and diffused accountability to taxpayers would be counterproductive to the innovation the Regents and our universities are undertaking.””

UA President Robert Shelton was also hesitant about the proposal.

“”From my understanding of the legislative efforts, the bill seems to be an action in search of a problem,”” Shelton said. ””Many states do have individual governing boards for each of their public universities.”” 

He said Arizona’s current system was simpler and minimizes system overhead.

“”My concern with this bill is that the details do not seem to be well-considered and it is critical to do so in order to have an effective system of higher education,”” Shelton said.

Shelton spoke about his old experience with universities with their own boards of trustees during a meeting of the Associated Students of the University of Arizona on Wednesday.

“”The overarching board (of the system) was highly political,”” Shelton said. “”The others were only marginally political and what they did was they all fought amongst themselves.””

Shelton said the system could work, but that it created more opportunities for gridlock on decisions.

“”It isn’t that it can’t work, it depends on the people,”” Shelton said. “”But it really depends, I think, on whether this is the time to add more administrative superstructure to the whole university’s in-state bureaucratic system.””

Shelton was asked by ASUA Sen. Jeff Adams if he thought advocacy for the UA could be bolstered by having its own board.

“”That is what proponents would say,”” Shelton said. “”… You’d have your own set of advocates because right now, the current board is supposed to advocate for all three.””

Elma Delic, the board chair of the Arizona Students’ Association, said the organization had decided to take an official stance against the bill on Monday. Delic said the bill does not guarantee student involvement in the new system.  

Delic also said she believes the regents are moving in a direction similar to what the Legislature is hoping to accomplish through this bill. She cited the regents’ strategic plans as evidence of this.

“”I think they’re already looking at making the university system much more efficient,”” Delic said.

— Jazmine Woodberry contributed reporting to this story.

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