Thursday, April 13, 2017

Diane Douglas Got Trumped. And DeVosed. And Maybe Duceyed. And It's a Damn Shame.

Posted By on Thu, Apr 13, 2017 at 6:15 PM

click to enlarge COURTESY OF THE ARIZONA  DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
  • Courtesy of the Arizona Department of Education
Education Superintendent Diane Douglas called it "fake news that was published by a failing news organization," and criticized the "so-called reporters" for writing a misleading story in the Arizona Republic. She also complained about a "hack media lawyer."

I'll give her this. At least her Trumpian put-downs were in a three page letter, not a series of tweets.

As anyone who reads my posts knows, I've had kind words to say about Douglas in the past. When she took office, I feared she would do her Tea Party worst, but instead she's combined a "do no harm" attitude toward schools and students with a willingness to listen to teachers and parents, and she put together a list of thoughtful recommendations, many of which I agree with. The only people she gave any serious grief were Doug Ducey and his Board of Education, leading me to shout, "Go Diane!" Compared to the two previous superintendents, Tom Horne and John Huppenthal, she's been a pleasant surprise.

Last September, Douglas publicly announced her support for Trump in an official news release. It was an odd thing for her to do, not because she supported Trump—I expected that—but because she stayed silent during the campaign for Prop 123 which had far more to do with her job than the presidential election. Her public, official support of Trump told me she really, really likes the guy.

And now comes this letter adopting not only Trump's dislike of the media and of lawyers who oppose him, but adopting his language as well, word for word. It looks like Douglas has gotten back in touch with her inner right-wingnut. And that's a shame.

The subject of her dispute with the Republic makes her condemnation of the paper even more shameful. It's over information about the current use of Empowerment Scholarship Accounts which she should have, and could have, given to the paper promptly and in usable form. Instead, according to the article, she took almost two years, releasing the data the day the state House was voting on the vouchers-for-everyone bill, and in a form that was close to unusable. The ESA bill, the pride and joy of Doug Ducey and the Goldwater Institute, praised by U.S. Ed Sec Betsy DeVos, Jeb Bush and education privatizers everywhere, passed without a vote to spare. If Douglas had given the information to the Republic earlier and in usable form, an article might have swayed one on-the-fence Republican who voted Yes to vote No instead, and the bill would have died.

You gotta wonder, was Douglas part of the cabal working to pass the bill, even if it meant withholding important information?

The two reporters working on the article, Rob O'Dell and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez—kudos to both of them for their excellent reporting on the subject—wanted to know how many ESA students were attending each private school. The state Department of Education said, reasonably, that it couldn't give the reporters a number if a school had less than 10 ESA students, since that might allow people to figure out the names of the individual students, which would be a violation of their privacy. But when the reporters received the data, they found that every version of a school's name parents submitted was listed as a separate school. So, for instance, instead of combining all the ESA students attending Brophy College Preparatory into one listing, the school was listed under four different names: Brophy College Prep, Brophy College Preparatory, Brophy College Prepatory and Brophy Prep. Since none of the versions had ten students, there's no listing for the number of ESA students attending the school. Our Lady Of Mount Carmel School is listed twelve different ways. Even if each listing had only one student, that means the school has more than the ten ESA students needed to report a number, but in the number column for all twelve listings is nothing but an asterisk.

Any fool knows that all those Brophy and Mount Carmel listings are for the same schools, especially someone who has a complete list of the state's private schools, which shouldn't be hard to find at the state Department of Ed—or even someone like me who knows how to use Google. Any fool would also know that the parents who listed "Amazon" and "Bank of America" as schools on their reporting forms put down the wrong information, but that was included in the data the reporters received as well. The result was a partial, inaccurate listing of the number of ESA students at various private schools with little value to the reporters, the public or legislators who might have been influenced by a complete listing.

If Douglas were an honest broker in this information request, she could have made sure it got to the reporters in a timely and usable fashion. That's not what happened. And it makes me worry that we may be looking at a more blatantly partisan, conservative Superintendent of Public Instruction from this point forward.

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