Ed Supe Diane Douglas is making headlines again in her continuing power struggle with the Arizona Board of Education. The Board represents the Ducey education agenda, and Douglas wants—it's hard to know exactly what Douglas wants. Based on her tenure on the Peoria school board and her pronouncements during the campaign, it seems like she wants Arizona education to take a hard right turn. But I don't know exactly what that means, especially since she's said some laudable things about education since taking office in January. When it comes to her long term plans, Douglas is holding her cards pretty close to her vest. What I do know is, she wants to have more power over education priorities at the state level, and she wants the State Board to have less.
They've been in court, Douglas and the Board, over the question of who controls what. The Board won the last round, so naturally, Douglas is appealing the ruling. Meanwhile, the latest is, she's threatening not to get the state's Move On When Reading web portal up and running, which is a problem, since there's $40 million in funding waiting to be spent on reading programs for elementary school kids, and it can't be allocated unless the website is working. It looks like Douglas has decided to open the Move On When Reading portal, but she says the Board has to kick in $50,000 to help it do its work, or something like that.
Yes, it would be awful if that $40 million isn't used to help kids read, but for the life of me, I can't get overly concerned about this whole Douglas/Board kerfuffle. (That $40 million will get spent on reading, by the way, very little doubt about that. Both sides want it to happen. They're just waiting to see who blinks first.) Truth be told, I find it all amusing. "Pass the popcorn, honey, this is getting good!" The "Douglas vs. the Republican Establishment" battle is the national Republican Party writ small. We're seeing similar battles playing out in the GOP's cast-of-thousands presidential primary. For years, the Republican establishment catered to and fawned over its far right wingers to bring them into the fold as a voting force. The party power structure was playing the role of political Frankenstein, creating an ideological monster out of bits and pieces of the Republican platform. [Literary note: Frankenstein isn't the monster. Mary Shelley created the fictional character Dr. Frankenstein, who then created the monster. When referencing the story, always say, "Frankenstein's monster" or simply "The monster." Never say, "They created a Frankenstein."] But the Republican Frankenstein wanted its far right wing monster to be all mouth and fingers. It was just supposed to make noise and vote Republican. Instead, the monster escaped, ran amok and took control. The people who are supposed to be in control don't know how to put the monster in chains and get him back into the laboratory where they can tell him what to do, instead of the other way round.
Douglas is a right wing ideologue who was never supposed to win. Huppenthal, a dependable cog in the Arizona Republican machine, was supposed to take the primary and the general. But Hupp—aka Thucydides, aka Falcon 9, anonymous, racist, batshit crazy blog commenter
extraordinaire—self destructed, and Douglas won the primary. The party establishment was so frightened of her, lots of them openly or not-so-openly supported her Democratic challenger, David Garcia. But she won. And now she's terrorizing the establishment villagers, giving them fits. She refuses to simply make right wing noises, then go along with the program. She wants as much power as she can grab so she can to push her own agenda.
This is a classic, you-reap-what-you-sow comeuppance for the Republican Party. True, we've all suffered from the Republican lurch to the right, and the crazies could do even more damage than they've already done—President Cruz, anyone?—but right now, at this moment, they're great theater. The presidential primary is a political junkie's delight. And Douglas is stealing the show here in Arizona.
Could things be worse for Arizona education than having Diane Douglas at the helm? Oh hell yes. We were supposed to have Huppenthal, that soulless, politically opportunistic technocrat who used TUSD as his political punching bag, at the helm. If he were in charge, the Tucson district would be under constant scrutiny. Anything Hupp saw as Latino consciousness raising, or anything vaguely radical happening anywhere in the district, would bring down a firestorm of news releases to the press and directives to the district. Diane Douglas, I honestly believe, has a good heart and wants to be the best Superintendent of Public Instruction she can possibly be. I'm hoping that, so long as she "hearts" the kids of Arizona, she won't go on an ideological rampage that will hurt them educationally, in TUSD or elsewhere. I'm hoping she'll be thoughtful and measured. Who knows? She might even do a wee bit of good.
So while we're still in the early stages of the drama, Pass the popcorn, honey, let's watch the show. No way to tell whether it will turn out to be a comedy or a tragedy, but in the meantime, right now, it's a whole lot of fun to watch.