Taking Back America By Taking Back Our Schools
Arizona Republic 2-13-15 Robert Robb Arizona Republic
In the firing flap, both Superintendent Diane Douglas and Gov. Doug Ducey overstepped their authority.
And, although Douglas was the one who backed down, Ducey actually made the more consequential political misstep.
Douglas fired two staff members of the state Board of Education. State statute says that they are employees of the Department of Education, which she runs. So, Douglas asserts the right to fire them.
But state statute also says the board hires its staff, upon the recommendation of the superintendent. If the board does the hiring, the logical inference is that it would also do the firing.
While there might be some ambiguity over who ultimately has authority over these employees, one thing is very clear. They don't work for the governor or for any agency that reports to the governor.
So, where does the governor get the authority to decide whether these employees are still employed or have been fired? The answer is that he doesn't have any.
Ducey uncharacteristically, and unwisely, lost his focus by involving himself in this brouhaha and asserting the right to overturn Douglas' decision.
Ducey presents himself as a full-spectrum conservative. But there have always been suspicions about him among populist conservatives. Although during the campaign Ducey sided with the populists against the business community on Common Core and Medicaid expansion, populists believe he's really a business guy at heart.
Douglas has strong support among populist conservatives. From their perspective, she is intensively disliked by all the right people. It's sort of a very small-scale Sarah Palin phenomenon. They are likely to view her as the victim of this dustup and Ducey as one of the perpetrators.
To succeed as a Republican governor, Ducey needs to treat the populist right cautiously. This wasn't really his fight.