The Arizona Republic’s politics team discusses the ongoing McCain/Trump feud, Gov. Ducey’s veto pen on recent legislation and drama in Phoenix City Hall.
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The Arizona Republic’s politics team talks about unfinished business, potholes and an avalanche of unwanted shoes. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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The Arizona Republic’s politics team looks back wistfully, maybe even sentimentally, “on the session that was,” and looks forward hopefully to sine die. Hannah Gaber/azcentral.com
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The Arizona Republic’s politics team discusses teachers’ “boat parade,” a protest for pay raises; the upcoming state budget; and what’s up with Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.
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The Republic’s political team on April 25, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including the protests surrounding the future of school vouchers and Rep. Kyrsten Sinema’s donation controversy.
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The Republic’s political team on April 18, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including 2018 candidates, Sen. Jeff Flake’s town hall and how a bill to require child-welfare officials to get warrants fell apart.
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The Republic’s political team on April 11, 2017, talks about “zombie” health care reform in Congress, and the expansion of the school voucher program headed by Gov. Doug Ducey.
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The Republic’s political team on April 4, 2017, talks about the state of the filibuster and the latest on Secretary of State Michele Reagan’s “Show Me the Money” campaign.
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The Republic’s political team on March 28, 2017, talks about funding for teacher raises in the state budget, what comes next after the non-vote on the ‘Obamacare’ repeal bill in Congress and proposed restrictions on citizen initiatives in Arizona.
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The Republic’s political team on March 21, 2017, talks about the possible impact on the president’s blueprint for a budget, and the lack of female representation in Arizona’s legislative leadership.
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The Republic’s political team on March 14, 2017, talks about how much of Arizona’s delegation has been quiet about the “Obamacare” replacement, but even Republicans don’t seem to like it.
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The Republic’s political team on March 8, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including a failed tax-cut bill, a congressman’s tweets and how a former state senator isn’t working at the White House after all.
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The Republic’s political team on March 1, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including the state of Senate Bill 1142 and the rowdy crowds at U.S. Rep. Martha McSally’s Town Hall.
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The Republic’s political team on Feb. 21, 2017, talks about recent political news, including Trump’s Arizona announcement about Intel, McCain and Obamacare, and House Bill 2404 targeting voter initiatives.
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The Republic’s political team on Feb. 6, 2017, talks about the latest political news affecting Arizona, including how much debt is too much for the state and which lawmaker wants to be shot.
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The Gaggle: McCain Trump feud, Ducey’s veto pen and Phoenix city hall
The Gaggle: Unfinished business and hallway laments
The Gaggle: Legislative session recap, May 2017
The Gaggle: Teachers protesting, a budget afoot and what’s up with Stanton?
The Gaggle: Voucher vote, Arizona university funding
The Gaggle: DCS warrants and Flake gets scorched
The Gaggle: Health care in Congress and school voucher expansion
The Gaggle: Is the filibuster busted and will Michele Reagan show us the money?
The Gaggle: Teacher raises, ACA repeal and ballot initiatives
The Gaggle: Federal budget and few women in the Legislature
The Gaggle: Obamacare replacement, George W. in town and TANF benefits
The Gaggle: Tax that did not get cut, tweets from Gosar and a non-job
The Gaggle: SB 1142 is dead and town halls get rowdy
The Gaggle: Bigfooted, McCain and HB 2404
The Gaggle: How much debt is too much?
THE MEDIA: Social media.
WHO SAID IT: Frank Riggs.
THE RACE: Republican nomination for Arizona superintendent of public instruction.
THE TARGET: Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas.
THE COMMENT: “If Mrs. Douglas is so concerned about funding for our K-12 schools, why has the Arizona Department of Education, which she oversees, spent over $4 million for travel costs and legal fees — including hundreds of thousands of dollars for private attorneys in her lawsuit against the State Board of Education — in her short 2 1/2 years in office? Those are taxpayer funds that should have gone towards classroom teaching and learning instead.”
THE FORUM: Facebook post on April 27.
WHAT WE’RE LOOKING AT: Whether the Arizona Department of Education spent more than $4 million on travel and legal fees since Douglas took office in January 2015, and how that spending compares with previous administrations.
ANALYSIS: Riggs cited an article from the Arizona Daily Independent, an online news site based in southern Arizona, that included data from each fiscal year since Douglas took office. It showed that from July 1, 2014, to April 10, 2017, the Department of Education spent a little over $4.9 million on legal fees and travel expenses.
There are, however, several problems with the figure Riggs cites.
One of them is that the counting began in July 2014.
Douglas took office Jan. 5, 2015, so some of the money was spent by her predecessor.
Records from the department show that since taking office and continuing through April, Douglas has spent $3.5 million on travel and legal fees.
Also, while Riggs describes the money as “taxpayer funds” that should have gone into the classroom, most of the money comes from the federal government with broad stipulations on how it’s spent, said Stefan Swiat, a spokesman for the department.
“ADE’s federal grants require us to do site visits for fiscal and programmatic monitoring, professional development, attend national conferences and other activities,” he said in an email.
While the government requires the department to perform these duties, policy director Charles Tack said the department has freedom to choose where the money goes. Much of it is used for sending employees around the state to monitor schools and educators.
“Some of the money has to go to travel simply because we have monitoring we have to do. We’re in a big state, we have a lot of in-state travel,” Tack said.
The Department of Education’s travel expenses are in line with Douglas’ predecessor, John Huppenthal, who served from 2011 to 2014.
Huppenthal’s department had median spending of about $993,000 per year on travel. Douglas has averaged about $994,000a year in her two completed calendar years.
Riggs’ criticism of spending on legal fees is closer to the mark compared with the previous superintendent.
The department has spent an average of almost $600,000 per year in Douglas’ first two years. Swiat said the majority comes from paying the attorney general for counsel. Douglas has been involved in lawsuits against the Arizona Board of Education.
Douglas’ attempted firing of two board staff members sparked one battle. She and the board went to court over who had authority to terminate contracts. In another case, the board sued the superintendent in an attempt to access information to investigate claims of teacher misconduct.
Huppenthal had a median legal spending of $360,000 a year over four years.
BOTTOM LINE: Riggs claims the department under Douglas has spent more than $4 million (while citing an article that implies $4.9 million in spending). Actual spending is closer to $3.5 million, an amount in line with Douglas’ predecessor. The department typically uses the money to travel around the state and monitor teachers in an attempt to help classrooms.
Legal costs incurred under Douglas are significantly higher compared with the previous superintendent.
THE FINDING: One star. Mostly false.
Sources: Frank Riggs Facebook post; Arizona Daily Independent article; email exchange with Arizona Department of Education spokesman Stefan Swiat; phone interview with Arizona Department of Education director of policy Charles Tack; financial records from the Arizona Department of Education.
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