Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Sylvia Allen To Head the Senate Education Committee. It's Horrifying and Hysterical, But Does It Really Matter?

Posted By on Wed, Dec 23, 2015 at 10:30 AM

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Senate President Andy Biggs must be trolling for attention from the national media. He must miss the days when Jon Stewart called Arizona "the meth lab of democracy" and showed TUSD Board member Michael Hicks warning us about the use of burritos as a propaganda tool by the Mexican American Studies program. Seems like Biggs is looking for a little love—or at least some attention—from new Daily Show host Trevor Noah.

How else can you explain Biggs elevating State Senator Sylvia Allen to the position of chair of the Senate Education Committee to replace Kelli Ward who's off fighting McCain for his senate seat? Can you think of a better subject for national hilarity? She declared that the earth is 6,000 years old, and when another Republican senator tried to shush her, she repeated it. She believes the government is poisoning us with chem-trails from airplanes (Quote from her Facebook page: "I have watched the chem-trails move out until the entire sky is covered with flimsy, thin cloud cover. It is not the regular exhaust coming from the plane it is something they are spraying. It is there in plain sight. What is it they are leaving behind that covers the sky?"). She said it would be great if going to church were mandatory, though to be fair, she used this as an example of something she'd like to see, not something she was proposing as law. And her high school diploma is the end of her formal education.

The story writes itself, doesn't it? The only problem will be coming up with a punchline strong enough to top the facts. But I trust the Daily Show writers and the writers on late night talk shows to rise to the challenge.

Allow me a moment to remove tongue from cheek. There, done.

I'm asking these two questions in complete seriousness. Will Allen do any more damage as Education Committee chair than the garden variety conservative Republican senator? And is there a chance she might be an occasional breath of fresh air beyond the comic relief she'll afford?

Time will tell, but I don't know how Allen's position as education committee chair will lead to worse legislation than would come out of the senate with any other Republican in that seat. She'll push bills she likes through committee and block those she doesn't like, just like any other chair. In most cases, she won't make significantly different decisions than her predecessor Kelli Ward. And I doubt she'll have much influence on the actual voting on the senate floor. If I'm right about this, the end result will be the same pro-privatization, anti-"government schools" legislation which has been the norm in our Republican-majority legislature, and the same school-starving budget decisions.

However, one thing might be different. Allen is not one to walk in perfect lockstep with the Republican leadership when she disagrees with them. Call her a loose cannon, call her someone with the courage of her convictions, she has been known to leave the fold when it suits her. She just might say things from her lofty perch at the head of the ed committee that embarrass the Republican establishment from Ducey on down—maybe even speak truth to power now and then. And as Sen. Steve Farley, a Democrat, says, Allen is willing to talk with people from both sides of the aisle. So who knows? The Democrats on the education committee might be granted a wee bit of consideration once in awhile. A few of their suggestions could even work their way into education legislation which would never see the light of day under a chair who blindly followed Biggs' party line.

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