Education Week - June 10, 2015 - (Page 15)
GOVERNMENT & POLITICS
Education Policy Issues in Arizona Crossfire
State chief, other officials
tussle as decisions loom
By Andrew Ujifusa
Disagreements between Arizona's education
chief and other state officials could complicate
the state's work on academic standards, school
finance, and other issues.
Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas were both elected
last year as Republicans, but their relationship
hasn't been particularly smooth. Disputes between Ms. Douglas and the governor, along with
other officials including state board President
Greg Miller, have included K-12 governance
and even the physical location of state board
In some respects, the tension in Arizona mirrors the multiyear battle between Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz,
a Democrat, and gop elected and appointed officials in that state, including Gov. Mike Pence.
In Indiana, Ms. Ritz has fought Gov. Pence and
others over control of the state school board and
testing, among other issues.
"There's an unspoken impact inside school
buildings. And that has to do with the way you
choose, as a state, to spend your emotional capital," said Timothy L. Ogle, the executive director
of the Arizona School Boards Association, referring to the state officials' political fight. "It's just
not a good use of time and energy."
Who Do They Work For?
Ms. Douglas won a Republican primary vote
last year against then-Superintendent John
Huppenthal, after making opposition to the
Common Core State Standards a central element of her campaign. She then topped Democrat David Garcia in the general election.
A key moment in the tensions that have
arisen since then was Ms. Douglas' decision
to fire the state school board's top two staffers,
Executive Director Christine Thompson and
Deputy Director Sabrina Vasquez, in February.
Ms. Douglas argued that she ultimately had
hiring and firing power over the employees.
Ms. Douglas said she fired them because they
had refused to report to her. In her position, Ms.
Thompson had previously advocated on behalf
of the common core.
Mr. Miller opposed the move, and Gov. Ducey
reinstated the two staffers countering that Ms.
Douglas had no power to fire them. (With the
exception of Ms. Douglas, Gov. Ducey appoints
state board members to four-year terms.)
Last month, after the board voted to move
its executive staff out of the education department's offices, Ms. Douglas filed a complaint
with Maricopa County Superior Court seeking
to clarify her control over the staff and saying
they should move back to her department.
State law indicates that Ms. Douglas can
make staffing recommendations to the board,
and the state department's website says that
she may "direct the work" of board employees.
Hiring and firing isn't explicitly mentioned.
The state board, in turn, has ordered the superintendent to grant the board full access to
files in her office, and voted to block Ms. Douglas from controlling the board's administrative
Antipathy to Ms. Douglas goes beyond fellow state officials. An effort is also underway
The Arizona schools'
chief has clashed with
other state officials on
governance and K-12
GOV. DOUG DUCEY
The governor and the
have disagreed over
school finance and the
to recall her, although it remains unclear if the
campaign, led by Phoenix teacher Anthony Espinoza, will be able to get 364,000 signatures
(25 percent of all ballots last year) required to
put a recall election on the ballot.
A spokesman for the Arizona education
department, Charles Tack, speaking on behalf of Ms. Douglas, rejected the notion that
PAGE 19 >
Congress Appears Poised to Tackle Higher Education Issues
By Lauren Camera
tion begins with students and their
families collecting information on
various programs. As such, members
of Congress have spent a lot of time
focusing on how to disburse the most
useful and accurate information about
institutions of higher education in a
way that's not overwhelming.
That information includes things
like tuition and other fees, available
scholarships, loans, and loan-repayment estimates. It also includes
graduation and dropout rates, job attainment rates, and average starting
The Obama administration has
made data transparency a high prior-
generation students go to college, as
well as some debate about how effective the programs are, largely due to
the difficulty policymakers have had
evaluating them. But so far during
the reauthorization hearings, there's
been little focus on how lawmakers
might reformat them.
However, with Republicans looking
to shed some of the federal government's financial burden, TRIO programs such as Upward Bound and the
College Access Challenge Grant will
likely be scrutinized. The challengegrant program provides matching
funds to partnerships of federal, state,
and local governments and philan-
With movement currently stalled
on the Elementary and Secondary
Education Act reauthorization in both
chambers of Congress, lawmakers
have turned their attention to another
pressing education matter: overhauling the Higher Education Act.
The postsecondary education law,
which expired at the end of 2013, is a
sweeping piece of federal legislation
that includes the entire student loan
system, the Pell grant tuition assistance program for low- and middleincome students, teacher-preparation
provisions, and various programs that
help smooth the path of disadvantaged students into higher education.
The access and readiness policies
and programs, in particular, make the
hea rewrite of keen interest to K-12
school administrators and families.
Education committee leaders in
the U.S. Senate and the U.S. House of
Representatives seem poised to begin U.S. SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER, R-TENN.
introducing legislation after convening several hearings on various higher
education issues, including affordability and consumer information.
ity and launched a college navigation thropic organizations that are aimed
tool early in its White House tenure. at increasing the number of low-inBut Republicans have criticized it come students who are college-ready.
for providing so much information
But some of the same issues that that it actually overwhelms students Missing Pieces
stand to hold up renewal of the esea and families. They'd like to see a recould also delay the higher education vamped and pared back version of
Another topic members of Conreauthorization: a congested congres- the tool.
gress are sure to examine but
sional calendar, forthcoming approIn the area of college readiness, haven't spent much time debating
priations battles, and looming 2016 many students, especially those from yet: teacher-preparation programs.
low-income families or those who
There are more than 80 such pro"Hea is a conversation that might would be the first in their family to grams across 10 agencies, and a major
take a decade," said Ben Miller, senior attend college, need help academically goal of Republicans last year was to
director for postsecondary education preparing for college. That's where streamline as many as possible. Rep.
at the Center for American Progress, federal TRIO programs come in.
John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of
a left-leaning Washington think tank.
There's been a longstanding battle the House education committee, pro"But where you start with that conver- over the scoring rubric for TRIO, the posed shifting the Teacher Quality
sation will reflect where it ends."
slate of programs that receive federal Partnership program into the esea alThe path to postsecondary educa- funding to help low-income and first- together. Democrats are more likely to
seek to expand teacher-preparation offerings, especially for on-the-job training in high-need schools, rural schools,
or high-need subjects.
One of the most difficult parts of
overhauling the hea will be putting
the Pell grant on solid financial footing. In the past, Congress has had
trouble fully funding the Pell grant,
which is a quasi-entitlement program
and gets both discretionary and mandatory federal funding. During the
recession, the Obama administration
increased the income threshold for
eligible recipients, and more people
than ever accessed the grant, causing
the cost of the program to skyrocket to
[The Higher Education Act is] the piling up of well-intentioned laws and
regulations, done without anyone first weeding the garden."
more than $30 billion in the current
There is bipartisan agreement that
students should be able to use their
Pell grants to pay for courses they take
year-round, including the summer.
There is also agreement that information should be pulled from irs filings
from the prior tax year in order to automatically qualify students for Pell
and other federal student loans, which
would essentially eliminate the need
for the burdensome federal aid form
"Those two things cost money and
if it weren't for the monetary side of
it we'd have those back already," Mr.
Republicans have supported poli-
cies to change Pell eligibility requirements by limiting the grant to lowincome students, but Democrats are
generally determined to maintain the
maximum grant and eligibility for as
many students as possible.
Lawmakers also are trying to find
ways to simplify the loan and repayment system so that, generally speaking, students can get access to one
federal loan and/or one federal grant,
and have one repayment system, as
opposed to the various loan and repayments systems that currently exist.
While the hea overhaul faces major
legislative obstacles, breaking off
smaller and less controversial pieces
of the law may present a path forward.
That's the strategy Rep. Kline took
last year with some success, when
he ushered through the chamber
three bipartisan bills dealing with
less-controversial higher education
issues-although student loan debt
was not among them.
Though the Senate historically prefers to pass legislation in big packages, there may be some appetite for
such a piecemeal approach. Indeed,
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who
is working to broker a bipartisan hea
proposal with Sen. Patty Murray, DWash., recently called the hea "the
piling up of well-intentioned laws and
regulations, done without anyone first
weeding the garden."
Mr. Miller, of cap, also noted that the
most important changes to higher education policy have used legislative vehicles other than the hea to become law.
"So the question is, do we keep following that path, or do we move back
to a role where it really is the big hea
[reauthorization] with a lot of important stuff in it?" he asked.
EDUCATION WEEK | June 10, 2015 | www.edweek.org | 15
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - June 10, 2015
Education Week - June 10, 2015
Cleveland Embraces Social- Emotional Learning
Challenge of Co-Teaching A Special Education Issue
As Federal Grants Taper Off, Two N.C. Districts Tally Impact
DIGITAL DIRECTIONS: N.Y. ‘Open’ Content Going Nationwide
School Choice Supercharged In Nev. Statute
News in Brief
Debate Persists Around Kindergarten Reading Standards
New York Expanding Dual Language to Help Its English- Learners
Schools, Students Hit Hard by California’s Historic Drought
Blogs of the Week
Massachusetts School Transforms Renovation Into Teachable Moment
Magnet Schools Found to Boost Diversity—But Only a Bit
Survey: Students Need More Than Academic Prowess
Education Policy Issues In Arizona Crossfire
Congress Appears Poised to Tackle Higher Education Issues
SIG Money Gives Principal Tools For Turnaround
Federal Aid Fuels Multi-Tiered Instruction
Additional Entrants Join Presidential Race
High Court Rules in Online Threat, Religious Rights Cases
A Movement Gains Momentum
What Teachers Are Saying
Parents Have a Civil Right To Question Testing’s Goal
Parents See Testing’s ‘Distorting Impact’
What Are the Policy Implications of the Opt-Out Movement?
TopSchoolJobs Recruitment Marketplace
An Early Opt-Out
Education Week - June 10, 2015