Let the ‘Recall Diane Douglas Games’ begin!
The campaign to recall Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas filed the necessary paperwork with the Secretary of State's Office today and can now legally begin collecting signatures.
But having spent the last 10 months since the November 2014 election organizing and building a ground strategy to get the word out about the campaign, today marks the beginning of the real uphill battle: getting 366,128 valid signatures in 120 days.
If the group succeeds, the governor will call for a special election, and the recall question will be put to voters. If they don’t make it, Douglas will complete the rest of her four-year term (and possibly run again in 2018).
“We believe she should be recalled because she’s not fulfilling the duties of her office, because she doesn’t have a concern for students and because she lacks honesty, integrity, and transparency,” said Maxwell Goshert, chairman of the Coalition to Recall Diane Douglas, at an impromptu press conference following the submission of the petition.
“She’s been engaged in political battles her entire superintendancy, " he said, "just trying to increase the power of her position.”
As Goshert and others have pointed out, Douglas has been mired in controversy since taking office in January. Case in point: her battle with Governor Doug Ducey over whether she had the authority to fire two employees because they allegedly support the Common Core curriculum, and her recent call to the Department of Public Safety about the state Board of Education president who, she says, grabbed her arm during a meeting.
Even the election itself was scandalous and ugly. Douglas, who critics say has no teaching background – other than leading a stained-glass art class and serving a short stint on the Peoria School Board – campaigned hard on a platform to repeal the Common Core curriculum and beat her Democratic opponent, David Garcia by one percentage point, or about 16,000 votes.
"She ran for superintendent on a single issue — repealing Common Core — which she can't even do," Goshert told New Times, earlier this year. "She kind of misled the voters on that. She made it seem like it was in her role that she would be able to repeal this as soon as she got to office."
Fearing what would become of Arizona public schools during Douglas’ reign, Goshert and his friend Anthony Espinoza, a week after the election, created a Facebook page demanding that Douglas be recalled. They were shocked by the outpouring of support it received.
“The Facebook page blew up,” Goshert said today. “Literally in 24 hours we had over 2,000 likes, and we saw that the people of Arizona were taking this more seriously than just a protest. They actually want it to happen.”
The constantly growing support has made Goshert and others affiliated with the coalition believe they truly have a shot of getting the recall on the ballot.
“We have hundreds of volunteers throughout the state of Arizona who have pledged their time and effort to gather signatures,” Goshert said. “We also have thousands who have officially pledged to sign the petitions once they have been made available and to spread the word to their friends and social-media networks where and how they can sign.”
But the road to recall won’t be easy; minutes after filing, Goshert was hit with some tough questions about the petition:
“Why Diane Douglas?” one reporter asked. “The Legislature’s not funding education; there are other elected officials here [who] aren’t helping education. What has she done to actually hurt education?”
“She’s the spokesperson for education. She’s the person who is supposed to go in front of the Legislature and say why public schools deserve more money,” Goshert replied.
The same reporter fired back that he has a recording of Douglas' saying we need more money for teachers and schools – “We didn’t get that from Doug Ducey, [Why aren’t you] recalling him?”
Goshert, who at this point was surrounded by a dozen reporters shoving cameras and microphones in his face, got a little flustered, but he managed to responded calmly that he would be interested in hearing the tape.
Still, he added, “She may have said in one public hearing that she wants more money, but in front of the people where it actually matters, she did not say that.”
“We don’t hate Diane Douglas,” one campaign volunteer told New Times. “We just don’t believe in her being the leader. We’re not out to character-assassinate or malign anyone; we’re trying to be professional because this is not about politics.” He added that it’s about getting leader who can help increase student achievement and improve the public school system – a job he does not believe Douglas can or will do.
“She has done nothing to help schools, she has done nothing to help education in Arizona,” said Goshart, summarizing the reason for the recall. “She has no plan, and she’s not working on a plan.”
Shortly after the election, Goshert said, leaders of the recall campaign approached Douglas: “We said to her, ‘look, we’d rather not recall you. We’d rather you come out with a plan to improve public education in Arizona.’ And she’s done no such thing. That’s why we believe, and that’s why the people of Arizona believe, she must be recalled.”
According to the group’s petition, the official grounds for the recall are:
“Since taking office in January 2015, Diane Douglas has demonstrated that she lacks the ability and expertise to serve professionally and politically in her elected position.
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“From a fiduciary standpoint, Superintendent Douglas has consistency and recklessly jeopardized valuable and vital education funding due to her unwillingness to execute various federal and state education laws and State Board of Education policies.
“In regards to her leadership role, she has not upheld the virtue of the constitutional public office to which she was elected, refusing to fulfill not only her basic duties under ARS 15-251 but also to adhere to the checks and balances of the Arizona state government system.
“Most importantly, she is not fulfilling her basic state duties superintending the schools of Arizona, focusing more on how to increase her power and position rather than how to increase student achievement, teacher effectiveness, school performance, stakeholder relations, and educational funding.
“Education is in a crisis fiscally, professionally, socially, and emotionally in Arizona. Education in Arizona needs a strong leader to lead its stakeholders and citizens during this time of crisis. Diane Douglas has proven she is not that leader.”