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Controversial Arizona Chief Who Sparred With State Board Loses Primary

Diane Douglas, Arizona's superintendent of public instruction, who was first elected in 2014 after running on a promise to get rid of Common Core State Standards but whose tenure was marred by legal spats with the state's board of education, is out of the race for re-election with her loss in the recent Republican primary.

Douglas came in third in a three-way race that had come down to just a few hundred votes between the top two vote-getters, according to the most recent count. The Republican nominee will compete against Democratic primary winner, Kathy Hoffman, a teacher, in November.

Douglas received national attention with her successful 2014 bid to become state chief by promising to rid the state of the common core standards. After being elected, Douglas got into several legal battles with the state's governor-appointed board of education over the education department's role and the board's role and which staff members should report to her. That relationship became especially fraught as the state attempted to draft its plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

In an interview with Education Week in 2016, Douglas said ESSA, which shifts much of education policymaking from federal to state control, is too "prescriptive" for her taste and said that because the legislation deals mostly with the state complying with federal policy, the state's education department, she and her staff—not the state board—would handle the law's implementation.

"Most of this work regards the relationship between the feds and the department," Douglas said. "This is about us coming up with a plan on how we're going to implement the various pieces and bringing it to the feds to make sure we are in line. That's not really policy work. That's administrative work, and that's the role of the department."

School funding, school choice and teacher pay has dominated Arizona's midterm race this year.  David Garcia, an college education professor who barely lost to Douglas in 2014, is in a tight race to replace incumbent Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican.


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