Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead, a Republican, has selected Arizona Sen. Rich Crandall to be its next public schools chief, right on the heels of an investigative report into the state's previous chief, Cindy Hill, that uncovered potential mismanagement and illegal activity. Crandall has been serving as the chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
Crandall, also a Republican, will take over for Jim Rose, who had served as the interim director of the state department of education as Mead's appointee. A vigorous defender of the Common Core State Standards, I've spoken with Crandall previously about defending the English/language arts and math standards at the American Legislative Exchange Council, when that free-market-oriented think tank considered adopting a resolution opposing the standards last year.
Part of the reason that Crandall, who has served on ALEC's Education Task Force, supports the common core is his belief that the new standards will mesh very well with emerging K-12 technology. He's also worked in the private sector, as the head of a two nutrition-oriented companies.
"From what we heard of the way he runs his businesses it sounds like he has done very well in advancing people and bringing them to their full potential," Scotty Ratliff, vice chairman of the Wyoming State Board of Education, said. "So I'm really optimistic about what he brings to the state."
The Phoenix New Times, a left-leaning newspaper in Arizona, went so far as to call Crandall a "non-wacko" conservative who also backed the state's Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act, not a popular move among many Republicans. In another political development, although he was re-elected to his senate seat last year, Crandall announced in March that he was leaving the legislature. When I last spoke to Crandall, he also spoke of combating anti-common-core sentiment in the state senate, so perhaps he tired of those and other fights.
In any case, remember that Hill, an elected Republican, still holds the title of state superintendent but has lost much of her power. She is challenging the law that stripped her of K-12 authority in court. The law passed earlier this year. If Hill manages to prevail, it will leave a lot of things in the state up in the air when it comes to control of education.
Photo: Arizona State Sen. Rich Crandall addresses the legislature during a session in May at the Capitol in Phoenix (Associated Press).