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Back to November Ed Reporter

Arizona Governor Presents Plan
to Abolish State Ed Bureaucracy

PHOENIX, AZ -- Arizona Governor Fife Symington shocked the public-school system when he proposed that the state Department of Education be eliminated and that individual schools be self-governing. His plan also proposes that teacher certification be discarded and that teachers' unions be denied the right to bargain collectively.

The Governor's proposal would also do away with most state regulations now forced on public schools, as well as provide private-school vouchers to parents and close down failing schools.

Symington said his plan is part of a "revolution" sweeping the country to downsize government and place more control in the hands of citizens.

"We're seeing a political revolution," he said. "Driving it all is the simple vision of limited government. It's a vision of free people taking responsibility for their own lives."

Symington said the Arizona Education Department was established in 1970 with a $515,000 budget and has since grown to a bureaucracy with 350 employees and a $9 million budget.

"The key to decentralization is the shifting of decision making and control of budgets from the top to the bottom of the pyramid," he said. "To accomplish true decentralization, it's the Arizona Department of Education, not the districts, we must abolish."

District school boards and their elected members would lose their governing power under Symington's plan. Instead, individual schools would be left to govern themselves.

Symington also proposes that teachers not be required to be certified or attend colleges of education. All they need, he said, is "a college degree, a good mind, a clean background check and a desire to teach."

"This is demeaning to teachers," said Kay Lybeck, president of the Arizona Education Association. "It is tough to be a professional and to hear the governor say that you don't need any experience in education to teach and that you are not valuable."

Symington calls for the end of collective bargains with teacher unions. He says that principals in the new locally controlled schools should be responsible for hiring and firing teachers based on merit.


 
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