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Pass the popcorn, folks—or maybe the nachos and beer, depending on your choice of couch-side refreshments as you watch your favorite sport. For political junkies like me who prefer political sparring to sports, this looks like the first few minutes of a classic matchup.
Ed Supe Diane Douglas fired two Board of Education employees. Then Ducey reinstated them and the Board of Ed agreed, with Douglas casting the only dissenting vote. Douglas made a semi-conciliatory statement in a press conference, and some people reported that as a sign she was backing down. How they got that impression after reading her bare-knuckles press release accusing Ducey of refusing to take her calls, saying he'd created a "shadow faction of charter school operators" and claiming he was hoping for low state test scores to drive students to charters, I'll never know. Them's fighting words, not the statement of someone who's making nice.
The reinstated employees returned to work Tuesday. Douglas could have blocked the door like George Wallace when he tried to stop school integration, or she could have barred them from their computers, but she didn't. Instead, she let the board employees in, then insisted that they couldn't discuss education matters with the rest of the staff and, more important, had to report directly to her, not to the board. That's not backing down. Backing down would have been if she tried to block their way and failed. That's changing tactics in an attempt to better her position.
It turned out to be a clever tactical move, because it forced the Board of Education to react
In a response delivered Tuesday evening, attorney Mary O’Grady, who represents the board, told Douglas attorney Steve Tully that the board has concerns with Douglas’ requests of the two employees. She emphasized that Thompson and Vazquez work for the board and that Douglas cannot direct their work in a way that undermines the board’s duties and authority.
“Just as you noted that you will oppose efforts to undermine the Superintendent’s statutory authority, the Board will also oppose efforts to undermine its authority or any failure to adhere to the Superintendent’s responsibilities to implement the policies established by the board,” O’Grady wrote.
O’Grady emphatically rejected Douglas’ insistence that Thompson and Vazquez must report directly to her.
“The Feb. 16 letter asserts that Ms. Thompson and Ms. Vazquez ‘report to Superintendent Douglas.’ No, they don’t,” O’Grady said, referencing Tully’s letter to her on Monday.
Score one for Douglas. Now the ball is in Ducey and the Board's court, and they find themselves in a tough spot. Do they tell the employees to defy Douglas and go over her head to the board, rousing her supporters in an open fight against the Republican establishment? And if they do, what will Douglas' counter-move be? No one has any idea. I imagine Ducey and board president Greg Miller are saying to each other, "Holy crap, what do we do now? We're not dealing with a Democrat here!"
Douglas is giving the Republican establishment the same fits Ted Cruz is giving to Republican congressional leadership. She won't quit. She won't stop. She won't back down. She just keeps coming back, again and again, mixing up her plays unpredictably, changing tactics to suit the moment. It's like what Republicans have done to Democrats every day since Obamacare was proposed. It's like what Arizona Republicans have done to Democrats every day ever since the Redistricting Commission created state legislative and U.S. congressional districts that weren't weighted in favor or Republicans. Fight, fight, fight. Mix things up. If you give an inch, take back two.
It's great fun for Republicans when they're making Democrats squirm, especially because it usually results in some kind of victory, large or small. But it's not so much fun when Republicans find themselves in a fight against other Republicans schooled in the same tactics and with the same "Don't take No for an answer" attitude.
My nachos are gone, I'm on my second beer, and it's not even the end of the first quarter. I probably should pace myself here. Nah, this is just too much fun.