Superintendent Diane Douglas: “If We Pay Them, They Will Teach”

(Phoenix, Ariz., April 27, 2017) – Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today unveiled a proposal to permanently extend and expand Proposition 301 monies to a full 1 percent, which if supported by voters would result in an immediate 11 percent raise for teachers and $100 million for school facilities.

“My proposal would generate $400 million annually for teacher salaries and school buildings,” Douglas stated. “By setting aside the majority of this funding for teacher salaries, we will provide close to an 11 percent raise for teachers in the first year, which means nearly $5,000 more in take-home pay. Using the remaining funding for school facilities can help address another looming crisis, which is the depreciation of our school buildings and infrastructure.”

Thursday’s announcement was shared in Douglas’ presentation to the Arizona Business Education Coalition (ABEC), a group of Arizona business and education leaders committed to helping develop effective public education policy. Her announcement comes on the cusp of the Superintendent’s next annual statewide We Are Listening Tour, which is where these two critical issues were repeatedly brought to her attention. Click HERE for the entire ABEC presentation.

“Only an overarching vision and decisive action will allow us to solve our current education crises, the first of which is that teachers need to be paid more,” Douglas shared with the ABEC audience. “I thank the Governor and Legislature for making teacher pay an important part of their budget discussions this session, and I look forward to working with them to take this next step once a budget is finalized.”

Douglas’ proposal would dedicate $300 million per year to teacher salaries and $100 million per year to school capital repairs in the first two years. In years three and beyond, the plan calls for $350 million per year dedicated to teacher salaries and sets aside $50 million per year for school capital. Click HERE for the chart outlining the proposal.

Douglas also expressed support for the restructuring of current Proposition 301 funding to allocate even more money for teacher salaries.

For more information and updates about the proposal, visit www.azed.gov.

 

New Dyslexia Handbook Available to Support Families and Teachers

(Phoenix, Ariz., April 24, 2017) – Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today unveiled The Dyslexia Handbook, a new resource available for families and teachers to help identify and support students with Dyslexia.

The development of this handbook was the result of recent legislation sponsored by State Representative Jill Norgaard (R) LD-18 in House Bill 2202, permitting the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) to create a resource to educate families and teachers about dyslexia.

“When I’ve toured the state during my We Are Listening Tour for the last two years, I’ve heard overwhelmingly that parents need more resources to help their children succeed,” said Superintendent Douglas. “I am appreciative of Representative Norgaard’s leadership on this issue to bring together parents and education organizations from around the state to collaborate with ADE and develop this important new resource.”

To celebrate this handbook launch, Representative Norgaard presented to the State Board of Education (SBE) about this new resource available and shared her next action to help decode dyslexia, which includes an increase of professional development opportunities for classroom teachers in the early identification of dyslexia. By her side at today’s SBE presentation were the many parents and education organizations that helped develop this new resource.

”I am very honored to have been a part of this team over the past nine months,” said Representative Norgaard. “This handbook will provide teachers and parents with a great tool to be able to decode dyslexia at an early age, and to provide focused intervention and resources to improve our literacy rates. I look forward to the success that this effort will yield.”

Improved student and parent resources were also priorities of Superintendent Douglas’ 2017 AZ Kids Can’t Wait!, an education plan to help shape education policy based on citizen feedback, which is available at www.azed.gov/beheardAZ.

Access to the new dyslexia technical assistance handbook to support families and teachers, as well as additional literacy resources, can be found at www.azed.gov/dyslexia.

Continued Budget Uncertainty Causes Another IT Staffer to Exit

(Phoenix, Ariz., March 31, 2017) – The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) announced Friday the departure of yet another experienced Information Technology employee. The employee is the latest in a series of exits from an award-winning IT team that have all cited “job uncertainty” as their reason for accepting positions elsewhere.

In the Arizona House of Representatives’ initial draft budget framework released this week, ADE was allocated a one-time funding of $7.3 million. That amount would provide resources desperately needed for the maintenance and basic operations of the Department’s data system, but it would still not allow ADE to finish developing its student data system; begin development on its payment system that was created in 1999; fund any new initiatives passed during this legislative session; pursue school-level funding initiatives; or provide reassurance of employment for ADE’s IT staff.

Additionally, the lack of any ongoing maintenance funding would continue to create instability for data system support in future years. ADE’s initial request for IT funding was $17.6 million for FY18, which included $10.1 million in maintenance and $7.6 million for development.

The most recent employee to leave the organization was the only staff member responsible for project-level financial reporting on AELAS, which is the overarching collection of systems that calculate school payments. After graduating from the Thunderbird School of Global Management with an MBA, this full-time employee worked on strategic financial management of IT systems for three years, focusing on reporting and forecasting for AELAS and the 150-plus IT systems that schools utilize daily.

“It is very telling that we lost an employee whose primary focus was to work on the IT budget,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas said. “It is always disappointing to lose good people, but it is even more discouraging when all of this could have been prevented by having funds annually allocated to our IT maintenance budget, just like many other major state agencies do. I hope the Legislature can provide us as soon as possible with some clear assurances that we will be able to keep our staff and that schools will be paid without any issues both this year and in the future.”

Arizona has seen unprecedented job growth in IT over the past decade, rated second among all states in that category. In June of 2016, Forbes magazine even named the Phoenix metro area as the city “winning the battle for IT jobs.”

“Since Arizona has such a red-hot IT market, I’m afraid that we will lose more valuable employees to other external offers,” the Superintendent said. “If I had a family to support and no guarantee of a job on July 1, I would start looking too.”

Superintendent Douglas Meets With Secretary DeVos in D.C.

(Phoenix, Ariz., March 24, 2017) – Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas recently returned from the national Council of Chief Superintendents of Schools Organization (CCSSO) annual conference in Washington, D.C. During her trip, she met with fellow state superintendents from around the country, as well as with United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, conferring on a number of topics.

Since Arizona was the first and only state to submit its Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan to the U.S. Department of Education, the CCSSO cited the leadership demonstrated to other states by the Superintendent and the Arizona Department of Education. Representatives from other states have already sought out the Superintendent to learn how they can replicate the initiatives Arizona has included in its ESSA plan.

Douglas was also provided the opportunity to briefly meet individually with Secretary DeVos, welcoming her to office and inviting the new Secretary of Education to visit Arizona. The Superintendent extended the invitation to Secretary DeVos in order to further demonstrate the work Arizona has already accomplished on developing standards, school choice and ESSA.

During her time with other state superintendents and school chiefs, the Superintendent was also praised for the state’s successes with providing a myriad of parental and school options. With her counterparts, she also discussed education policy and advocated an increase in funding for Native American education, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, increased funding and Arizona’s Zip Code Project.

“It was an honor to meet Secretary DeVos and I am looking forward to working with an administration that is better aligned with our education goals,” Douglas said. “Under our partnership with the administration, I am hopeful that Arizona will receive increased funding and flexibility. In addition, CCSSO was very complimentary of our state’s ability to lead the way for our country and submit our ESSA plan before anyone else.”

The Superintendent has already scheduled upcoming regular conversations with CCSSO, her fellow state superintendents and with Secretary DeVos.

Superintendent Meets With Congress on Education

(Phoenix, Ariz., March 27, 2017) – Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas met with members of Arizona’s congressional delegation, as well as national education leaders in both the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, at the Council of Chief State School Officers legislative conference last week in Washington, D.C.

Superintendent Douglas first met with U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-Va.), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, to talk about the federal government’s role in education and express her support for Foxx’s efforts to ensure that its influence is limited. The Superintendent then attended meetings in the offices of representatives and senators from her home state, including Reps. Andy Biggs, Trent Franks, Paul Gosar, Tom O’Halleran, David Schweikert, as well as with Sens. John McCain and Jeff Flake.

Rep. O’Halleran and his staff expressed interest in supporting rural schools and advocating for impact aid to schools on Indian reservations, while learning from the Superintendent that the Zip Code Project and Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative would both prove beneficial for his district. Representative Schweikert’s office was also eager to hear about the broadband initiative, joining Representative Franks’ office in its request for more support for Indian education.

Rep. Biggs shared his proposal to create additional flexibility for federal Title I funds and asked for additional details about the Common Core replacement that took place in December. His office was also interested in the submission of Arizona’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) State Plan and the ongoing need for support of Native American students.

Rep. Gosar was excited to hear about the impact that broadband connectivity could have on his district, while also discussing how to better support the Office of Indian Education, the Zip Code Project and pilot programs to promote college and career readiness.

“It is always an honor to meet with elected representatives and senators that are doing their part to ensure that Arizona is the best state in the nation,” Superintendent Douglas said. “After our meetings, I am confident that they will support our great state in addressing the needs of all of our students.”

Arizona Launches Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative

(Phoenix, Ariz., March 14, 2017) – In order to expand K-12 Internet access, affordability and student digital learning opportunities in schools across the state, most notably in rural areas, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas today applauded the funding of the Arizona Broadband for Education Initiative.

The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) voted this morning to approve the one-time expansion of the existing Arizona Universal Service Fund (AUSF) to assist in the state matching investment of this program. The new grant will allow Arizona to receive ten dollars of funding for every dollar the state invests into the initiative.

Ultimately, the project could bring hundreds of millions of dollars in services to the state.

“Equal access to broadband services is critical to the success of a child’s education in the 21st century,” Superintendent Douglas said. “This program is an incredible opportunity for underserved children from small schools in rural parts of Arizona to have the same technology opportunities that are afforded to other children in the state.”

Last March, Arizona was one of the few states to be awarded the 2016 K-12 Broadband and Digital Learning Policy Academy grant through a partnership between the National Governor’s Association (NGA) Center, EducationSuperHighway (ESH) and the K-12 Broadband and Digital Learning Policy Academy.

“I commend my staff at the Department for making this opportunity a reality for so many students in rural areas,” Superintendent Douglas said. “My Public Information Officer, Stefan Swiat, wrote the grant application that enabled Arizona to have this opportunity, while State E-Rate Controller Milan Eaton has worked tirelessly to sign up as many schools as possible. My staff and I look forward to implementing this incredible program, which will bring tangible resources to rural students, schools and communities throughout the state.”

Designed to help support and guide states seeking to provide nearly every student with access to high-speed Internet, Wi-Fi access and enhanced digital learning, the NGA, ESH and Policy Academy will provide Arizona with advice and support on best practices in education, as well as help inform the scope and structure of the implementation process.

A thorough review estimates that the state match for this program may range from $8-13 million and that internet connectivity projects may span more than two years and benefit nearly 100,000 Arizona students. The state investment will draw down significant E-rate funds, which, in a majority of school systems, may pay for the entire cost of infrastructure construction.

To accomplish the state match, Commissioner Tobin and the ACC proposed establishing a new program which uses the AUSF fund to provide a portion of the state matching funds. A one-time distribution of $8 million from the existing AUSF would serve as the large portion of the state’s match, supporting telecommunications carriers which serve in high-cost areas of rural Arizona.

Since the grant was awarded, the Superintendent and Arizona Department of Education staff have worked to ensure participation from schools throughout the state. While all 15 counties already have a school moving forward with this initiative, as many as 200 school districts and charter schools have already applied for broadband services.

“While the Arizona Department of Education has provided the technological expertise, support and one-on-one engagement on this program, the Corporation Commission has taken the lead financially to ensure that this once-in-a-lifetime initiative is funded,” Superintendent Douglas added. “Although I would have preferred that the funding come from the general fund, I am pleased that so many students will reap the technological benefits of broadband such as online classes and digital learning access, as well as the ability to conduct state-of-the-art STEM experiments.”

Schools and districts are encouraged to apply through an easy and straightforward process that is also available for the following fiscal year. Those interested in this opportunity are encouraged to contact EducationSuperHighway Outreach Coordinator Alyssa Cubello at [email protected] or State E-Rate Controller for Schools Milan Eaton at [email protected].

Superintendent Diane Douglas Welcomes New Director of Legal/Hearings

(Phoenix, Ariz., March 21, 2017) – Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas is pleased to announce that Daniel Schultz has been named the Arizona Department of Education’s (ADE’s) new Director of Legal/Hearings.

“I am excited to work with Daniel to ensure that the Department provides the highest levels of data privacy for Arizona’s 1.1 million students,” Superintendent Douglas said. “With almost 30 years of extensive legal experience, he has worked with government entities, as well as with Fortune 500 companies.”

Schultz attended the United States Military Academy in West Point as an undergraduate before receiving his J.D. from the University of Wisconsin Law School in 1988. Immediately after graduation, Schultz went into litigation, accepting the position of litigation principal at Troop, Steuber, Pasich, Reddick & Tobey, LLP in Los Angeles.

During his 11 years at the firm, he participated in complex insurance coverage litigation on behalf of Fortune 500 companies, developing case strategies and drafting pleadings, briefs and memoranda. Schultz also defended depositions and supervised all facets of discovery and trial preparation.

After a couple of years addressing telecommunications, internet service provider and franchisor-franchisee disputes as lead counsel for insurance litigators DLA Piper, Schultz began his private practice when DLA conflicted out of its largest case. In 14 years of private practice, his law office handled intricate environmental insurance litigation, recovering more than $170 million for the State of California.

In his new role, Schultz will focus on providing comprehensive legal guidance and interpretation of legislation for ADE, prepare ADE for judicial proceedings and administrative law hearings, as well as draft a variety of contracts, resolutions, regulations and legal documents on behalf of the Department.

Schultz spends his free time following college football, especially his beloved Wisconsin Badgers, having attended back-to-back Rose Bowls when he lived in L.A. Married to his wife, Belinda, they have four children: a daughter, Nicole (19 years old), as well as Alec, Adam and Ben (16), who are triplets. He is also a member of the International Technology Law Association, an avid deer hunter, a high school state baseball champion and the pet owner of a tortoise named Jib.

ADE Launches Legislative Email Campaign to Preserve Education Funding

(Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 27, 2017) – The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) and Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas launched an email campaign today to show unwavering support for the IT funding necessary to pay teachers, pay schools and protect student data. The campaign comes as a response to the many education stakeholders and concerned citizens who requested a platform to voice their support of Information Technology (IT) funding for the department.

In order to underscore the urgency of restoring IT funding, the “Be Heard Arizona! Email Campaign” provides Arizonans with a template email to communicate this vital necessity to their legislators. The initial fiscal year 2018 budget recommendation released in January did not allocate any funds for the maintenance and support of ADE’s IT systems that are responsible for determining school enrollment numbers and distributing billions of dollars to Arizona’s schools.

“I cannot emphasize the importance of urgency in this matter enough,” said Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas. “My staff has spoken with the governor’s office privately and they have assured us that they want to see schools and teachers paid. However, if we cannot promise our award-winning IT staff that they will have a job on July 1, they will leave to take advantage of the booming IT market in Phoenix.”

Two programmers have already left the Department for positions elsewhere, one of which cited job uncertainty as his reason for leaving in an exit interview. If the nearly 130 ADE IT staff members continue to accept external offers, the performance of the IT systems that pay schools, take attendance and distribute free and reduced lunch will undoubtedly be affected.

Those interested in helping raise the Arizona Legislature’s awareness about this issue can visit www.azed.gov/beheardAZ. The user-friendly letter prepopulated on the website also allows for personal comments to be added.

“The campaign’s goal is for the legislature and governor’s office to assure me that we will have the funding necessary to preserve my staff’s employment,” the Superintendent said. “We urge every citizen to join us in emphasizing to the Arizona Legislature that this critical issue get immediately resolved. Since this could affect the future of all of our schools, teachers and students, there has not been a more important issue I have faced during my tenure as Superintendent.”

Arizona Educator Surprised With $25,000 Milken Educator Award

(Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 15, 2017) – Principal Timothy Thomas at Rogers Ranch School in Laveen received the surprise of a lifetime when he was presented with the prestigious Milken Educator Award―and the $25,000 cash prize that accompanies it ―during a special assembly at his school today. Principal Thomas was awarded this honor in recognition of his exemplary achievements as an educator and leader, serving as a model for the profession.

“One of my favorite things to do as Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction is to help recognize truly remarkable and deserving educators like Timothy Thomas,” said Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas. “I am privileged to be able to witness what a respected leader he is for this school. There is no doubt that his students, teachers and the community benefit from his passion and knowledge.”

Gleaned from his experience as a master teacher, Thomas has developed a reputation as a “turnaround” expert for creating a supportive environment for teachers and students to thrive. Thomas took over as principal at Rogers Ranch School in 2013 when the school was reportedly facing challenges such as low student achievement, high staff turnover and discipline issues. Just one year later in 2014, the K-8 STEM school progressed from a “D” to a “B” in Arizona’s school grading system and teacher retention rates increased while staff, students and parents all sang Thomas’ praises.

“One of Mr. Thomas’ many great attributes is that he is always teaching, and he is always learning,” said Laveen Elementary School District Superintendent Dr. Bill Johnson. “Mr. Thomas is the instructional leader everyone hopes for in a school principal, and at the same time he is always growing, refining and improving. Staff and students readily strive to achieve the high expectations Mr. Thomas has for them, because they see that he holds himself to the highest standards.”

Before joining Rogers Ranch, Thomas led a similarly successful turnaround effort as principal of Cordova Middle School in Phoenix’s Alhambra Elementary School District. In Thomas’ first year, the school outperformed state and district averages in student achievement, led the district in student and teacher attendance and became Alhambra’s highest-achieving middle school.

Thomas graduated from Arizona State University in 2001 with a bachelor’s in elementary education, earning a master’s in educational leadership from Northern Arizona University in 2009. Thomas began his career teaching middle school math in 2002, developing an advanced math curriculum for his students. In addition, he established after-school outlets for students including tutoring, clubs and sports programs. An enormous proponent of STEM (science, technology, engineering and manthematics), Thomas partnered with a science museum and designed lessons for a new Saturday STEM program.

The Milken Educator Awards, created by the Milken Family Foundation, were launched in 1987. The Awards provide public recognition and individual financial rewards of $25,000 to elementary and secondary school teachers, principals and specialists from around the country who are furthering excellence in education. Recipients are heralded in early to mid-career for what they have achieved and for the promise of what they will accomplish.

In Arizona, 37 recipients have been presented with a Milken Educator Award since 1998.

Photos and videos from Thomas’ event can be viewed at http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/educators/ .

For information about the awards, visit http://www.milkeneducatorawards.org/newsroom/media-kit.

ADE Concludes IT Budget Presentation to House and Senate

(Phoenix, Ariz., Feb. 8, 2017) – Arizona Department of Education (ADE) Chief of Staff Michael Bradley today concluded his budget presentations to the Arizona Legislature on behalf of the Department. Bradley first appeared before the Senate Appropriations Committee on Tuesday before presenting ADE’s budget to the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.

In his two appearances, Bradley focused on the impact of the initial fiscal year 2018 budget recommendation released in January, which allocated zero dollars for the maintenance and support of ADE’s information technology systems. He also emphasized the severe consequences that no information technology funding could have for public and charter schools throughout Arizona as systems responsible for determining school enrollment numbers and payments begin to suffer from a lack of support.

This oversight in the state’s initial budget proposal could prevent ADE from distributing billions of dollars to Arizona’s schools. If the issue is not resolved in the near future, ADE may be unable to issue payments to schools on July 1 or earlier if left unchanged.

“It is imperative that we receive our entire budget request from the Legislature so we can continue to run our IT systems and issue payments to schools,” Bradley said. “Arizona cannot afford to dismantle an IT data system that distributes more than $5 billion of state aid to schools, especially when it has already offset the state’s investment in its construction.”

If no additional money is provided through this year’s budget process, ADE will not have the capacity to pay for the basic software and network services required to operate the data system. In addition, no IT funding would have a devastating impact on accountability, federal and state reporting, the protection of student data, the livelihood of ADE IT and school employees and more than 150 computer programs used daily by schools and ADE employees to support students.

“Our third-party, independent auditor stated that our IT system needs to receive our full budget request,” Bradley stated. “No longer can we get away with receiving just enough money to maintain our IT systems. In order to process payments accurately without our systems collapsing, we need to rebuild the current payment systems, which were constructed before anyone currently in high school was born.”

In FY 2017, ADE received a one-time allocation of $7.3 million in dedicated IT funding. However, since Prop 301 funds have expired and ADE IT must still run its antiquated systems in combination with the new, the Department is requesting $17.6 million to maintain and complete its IT projects.

If the IT budget is not fully maintained, schools will feel the effects to their funding as early as March, but no later than July 1. Since IT employees may begin accepting employment at other organizations, the performance of the IT applications that these workers maintain will begin to decline.