Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction: Why You Should Pay Attention to This Office

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The Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction is the state’s top education official.  The Superintendent acts as chairman of the State Board of Education and is the head of the state Department of Education.  The Superintendent also sits on the State Board of Regents, the governing board for the state’s university system.

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According to the Council of Chief State School Officers, Arizona is one of only fourteen states that elect their Superintendent of Public Instruction.  The position is appointed by the Governor or the State Board of Education in the other thirty-six states.

Information about the current Superintendent of Public Instruction and the Arizona Department of Education may be found here.

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Why Should You Pay Attention to This Office?
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While many Arizonans are familiar with the impact of their local Governing or School Board, they are unfamiliar with the influence of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.  The officeholder is a major force in decisions made about public education in the state of Arizona.  The Superintendent of Public Instruction influences policy in the legislature, is responsible for the implementation of education legislation and is in charge of the Department of Education and its interactions with school districts.  Further, the Superintendent of Public Instruction commands the bully pulpit on education issues and has a great deal of influence on the direction the state takes regarding educational issues like school funding.

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In his study of the office in 1974, John Bury noted that, “[w]ith each new political generation the electorate deals once again with the important questions.  These questions cover a variety of topics including church versus state, elected versus appointed superintendent, local control versus state or federal control, and textbook adoption, curriculum design, and school finance.” (Bury, p.473)  Thirty-six years later, the issues haven’t changed much.

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The History of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction
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The First Territorial Governor, John Noble Goodwin committed himself to education in the fledgling territory stating that; “self-government and universal education are inseparable.” (Bury, p. 34)  Understanding the importance of establishing and funding public education, the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction was authorized by The Education Act of 1879, and territorial legislation was enacted to build a system of public education in the Arizona Territory.  “[T]he issue [of the election of the Superintendent] was clouded until statehood when the constitution would clearly state that the State Superintendent of Public Instruction should be elected.” (Bury, p. 163)

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The Arizona Constitution Article XI established the elected position of Superintendent of Public Instruction.  His or her duties are outlined under the following statutes:

15-251. Powers and duties

The superintendent of public instruction shall:

1. Superintend the schools of this state.

2. Request the auditor general to investigate when necessary the accounts of school monies kept by any state, county or district officer.

3. Subject to supervision by the state board of education, apportion to the several counties the monies to which each county is entitled for the year. Apportionment shall be made as provided in chapter 9 of this title.

4. Direct the work of all employees of the board who shall be employees of the department of education.

5. Execute, under the direction of the state board of education, the policies which have been decided upon by the state board.

6. Direct the performance of executive, administrative or ministerial functions by the department of education or divisions or employees thereof.

15-231. Department of education

A. There is created a department of education.

B. The department shall be administered through:

1. The state board of education which shall be the policy determining body of the department.

2. The superintendent of public instruction in whom all executive, administrative and ministerial functions of the department are vested and who is the executive officer of the state board of education.

C. In addition to any divisions established by law, the superintendent of public instruction may establish such divisions as in the judgment of the superintendent of public instruction are necessary for the proper transaction of the business of the department.

D. The department shall be conducted under the control of the superintendent of public instruction.

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Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction: A Historical Timeline

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1871:  Territorial government establishes the initial scaffolding for a statewide educational system.  The Governor is made ex officio Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Probate judges take on the County Superintendent positions.

1878: Arizona Governor John C. Fremont is confirmed, though the former Presidential candidate “never regarded the position of Governor as worthy of his ability and fame”.  He proceeds to jettison many of the usual duties of the office, and ultimately casts his ex-officio duties as Superintendent of Public Instruction to Professor MH Sherman, a school principal in Prescott.

1879:  The Arizona legislature creates a separate office for the Superintendent of Public Instruction.  Superintendents are not be required to live at the capital and are appointed by the governor.

1880: The people of the territory push to “secure the right to elect their own officers” in government, and the governor allows for a popular election of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

1885: Governor C. Meyer Zulick appointed Governor of the Territory by President Grover Cleveland.  Zulick is both the first Democrat & the first Territory resident to earn the position.
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Governor Zulick announces to the Assembly that he would no longer allow for an elected Superintendent, though he backtracks slightly when he named recently elected Robert L Long to the position.
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It was noted by a contemporary scholar that “…schools were in politics, and any change in the control of national parties in Washington was felt in the public-school superintendency in Arizona.  The results of this [were] bad.  Every governor appointed his own friends to office, and as a result there was a rapid succession of individuals who, however earnest and devoted, were handicapped by inexperience”. (Bury, p. 218)
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1888: Following a tit-for-tat exchange and accusations from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Strauss that he mismanaged funds, County School Superintendent Buckey O’Neill wrote:
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“…the number of leeches, of more or less magnitude, who have attached themselves to the school system of the Territory, for the purpose of appropriating to their own use and benefit the money which should go to educating the young…
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…Take as example the office of Territorial Superintendent, created in 1879, to please a Prescott pedagogue….from the outset the office has been a barnacle, a parasite, a fungus, and will continue to while it lasts.  It may serve to reward political services, but the Territory will never profit from it.
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No responsibility being attached to it, no ability is required to fill it, and no endorsement but favoritism required to secure the appointment which rests solely in the hands of the Governor.”  (Bury, p.221 text/240 pdf)
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1890:  Superintendent George Cheyney is appointed by the incoming Republican governor.  Bury notes “Because of the hostility of the Democratic legislature towards the Republican Governor Wolfley and Republican Superintendent, the salary of the office was cut from $2,000 to $750 that year.  Cheyney conducted his office business from Tucson.”
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In his 1890 Biennial Report to the Assembly, Cheyney himself recommended that it become an Superintendent of Public Instruction be made an elective position:

“Not only is the principle correct and the selection left to the people, where it belongs, but the efficiency of the office would, in my judgment, be greatly increased.

The duties imposed upon him by law render him in many cases the superior officer of the county organizations, while the fact that he owes his position solely to the will of some appointing power, while they have passed the ordeal of public selection, detracts largely from the prestige of his office”. (Bury, p. 233/252 pdf)
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1909:  Kirke Tonner Moore becomes the first Territorial Superintendent who was appointed without ever having worked in the field of education.
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1911: Statehood.  President Taft and the statehood delegation negotiate terms for granting separate statehood to Arizona and New Mexico.  Elections are called, and Democrat Charles Case beats Republican Claude Jones for the first Arizona State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
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1918: House Bill No. 10, which proposes to eliminate the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, passes easily through the House & Senate. Under the House Bill, the seven-man Board of Education would be given full authority to appoint the Superintendent.
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Superintendent Case fears that such a provision will allow for  “a dictatorship of education”.
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He calls for the public support, saying:    “These seven men, who by some unexplainable process are to become immune to politics, can appoint a superintendent and pay him any salary they choose.  They can appoint him for any length of time.  The incumbent whom they may appoint if he suits four of the seven men can continue in office indefinitely whether he suits the people or not…This is too much undefined power to vest in a little board of seven members not directly chosen by the people.  It is undemocratic, unnecessary and unsafe.” (Bury, pp 328/348pdf)
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1922: The public agrees with Superintendent Case, and votes to keep the Superintendent of Public Instruction as an elected position.
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1951:  Superintendent Brooks takes issue with the legislature for failing to provide appropriations for new textbook purchases.  Brooks specifically attacks a Republican representative from Pima County, who retorted that the legislature had failed to grant the needed funds “Because it lacked confidence in the (Brooks) administration.”

Soon after, the legislature commissioned Giffenhagen & Associates to prepare a report on a study of the public school system in Arizona.  The report was submitted in June 1952, with three volumes covering every aspect of AZ education with recommendations for changes and improvements.

The Giffenhagen Report concluded:  “The Superintendent of Public Instruction should be appointed, and that appointment should be for an indefinite term.  “The head of a state public school system should be the best qualified administrator available for the position, and selection should not necessarily be limited to residents of AZ any more than should selection of a city school superintendent.”

The result?  A historian reports:    “Following this report which was done at great expense and which gave explicit recommendations, no changes were made in the Superintendency nor in the Dept of Education.”

Sources:

The Historical Role of Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, (1974) John C. Bury, Volumes 1 and 2, Northern Arizona University.

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The Establishment of the Arizona School Systems (1902) Samuel Pressly McCrea, Leland Stanford Junior University (skim over the first few pages of this Google doc to find the right text)

For further information see:  The Historical Role of Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, John C. Bury, 1974, ERIC.ed.gov

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16 Responses to “Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction: Why You Should Pay Attention to This Office”

  1. Meredith says:

    Wow, I just noticed that Senator Huppenthall is running for Superintendent of Public Instruction, but he’s voted against Public Education funding 100% of the time. If he doesn’t support public education, why is he running? Political stepping stone? I saw the voting record on your other post: http://www.arizonaeducationnetwork.com/2010/03/2009-legislative-sessions-education-voting-record-by-legislator/

  2. Penny says:

    Meredith- That is exactly why I am running for Superintendent of Public Instruction. Our current policy makers have been systematically cutting education funding for years. I was a teacher for 18 years, most of those here in AZ. My kids went to school here and I know I can help us move forward, not backward. I hope you will check out my website at http://www.pennykotterman.com. The AEN is an amazing group of parents and community members. This is great information- keep up the good work!

  3. paying attention in tempe says:

    I just looked at all of the websites I could find for the Superintendent candidates.

    One thing really caught my eye: Senator Huppenthal’s website makes this claim about his “education leadership”: “Under Senator Huppenthal’s leadership, per-student funding has increased by over 5% per year for Kyrene, Chandler and Tempe schools for the last three years. This funding gave the districts the resources to reduce class size and allows the National Education Association to rank Arizona K-12 instructional salaries as the 12th highest in the nation.”

    Holy crap! Aside from the fact that he voted against education funding 100% of the time last year (and he sure can’t claim credit for voter approved over-ride campaigns in the districts he listed) I just double checked to make sure of something…and yes, he is repeating the same bold LIE (“NEA ranks Arizona K-12 instructional salaries as the 12th highest in the nation”) that you guys debunked in the first report I ever saw from you. (AZ Education Facts).

    NEA’s most recent numbers show Arizona K-12 instructional salaries are 44TH (not 12th!) in the nation. (*see page 21, table c-18 on this link http://www.ne a.org/assets/docs/09rankings.pdf) Table c-21 in the same study shows that average instructional salaries in Arizona have DROPPED between 1997 and 2007 by 23.1% — the highest drop in the nation by far.

    SHAME on Mr. Huppenthal! I’m tired of these types of politicians who think that they can slide these lies past us like hot butter. If he can’t even come up with the right numbers on his resume, what makes him think he’s qualified to run our public schools!?!?!?!?!?

  4. paying attention in tempe says:

    Two other things:

    1. I don’t know who Dr. Price is, but her website currently says ‘blah blah blah’ in all of her categories. Literally. I’m guessing that is because she hasn’t written the text yet for the webpage, but it isn’t inspiring much confidence in me! :)

    2. You guys left out Margaret Dugan. Isn’t she still running? Her website is here: http://www.margaretdugan.com/

  5. aenadmin says:

    @paying attention in tempe
    Tempe ~
    Thank you for your comments. Our apologies for leaving Ms. Dugan off the original post – it wasn’t an intentional omission and we have added her name to the list.

    In the interest of fairness, we would also like to provide the links to all of the current candidate websites. We strongly encourage readers to visit each website to learn more about each candidate and their platform for education.

    Margaret Dugan http://www.margaretdugan.com

    Penny Kotterman http://www.pennykotterman.com

    Jason Williams http://www.williamsforarizona.com

    Gary Nine http://www.g9foraz.com (withdrawn but site still active)

    John Huppenthal http://www.johnhuppenthal.com

    Beth Price http://www.bethpricecg.com

  6. [...] Dugan and Huppenthal, both Republicans, will run against each other in the August 24 primary.  Kotterman and Williams will compete in the Democratic primary. Related Articles: Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction: Why You Should Pay Attention to This Office [...]

  7. Dawn Moss says:

    Huppenthal, like many Republican legislators, is pro charter and private education. I have been trying to do some research to where his financial interest lies. I was shocked to even think he would run. He, like many don’t seem to realize, they are in PUBLIC office, not private and he would be overseeing PUBLIC, not private education. His agenda is to get rid of it. He also voted against the asbesto investigations at Corona Del Sole HS.

    Those of us in education know Ms. Kotterman is our obvious choice, an educator should run the highest office in the state for education!

  8. AzEdPolicy says:

    @Meredith
    Senator Huppenthal’s record supports teacher pay raises and removal of red tape! If you read his record, you will understand that some children do not fit into the Public school model. Children who are blind, deaf, or have moderate autism NEED private placements; and that’s what Senator Huppenthal supports. Good for you, thinking the Public model fits all children; it simply does not.

    Do Democrats run this site? It’s pretty biased.

  9. aenadmin says:

    AZEdPolicy:

    In response to your direct question: the Arizona Education Network is a non-partisan resource. I myself am a registered Independent, and our board, writers and researchers reach across the political spectrum. You can read more about our non-partisan group in the About Us section of this website.

    I would also, however, like to comment on your assertion that “children who are blind, deaf, or have moderate autism NEED private placements; and that’s what Senator Huppenthal supports.”

    Though I cannot speak to Sen. Huppenthal’s position on this matter, it is important to point out that the majority of special needs children in our state attend public schools. Our forefathers embedded specific instructions in our Arizona Constitution for the legislature to “enact such laws as shall provide for the education and care of pupils who are hearing and vision impaired” (Article 11, Section 1); and the Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind (ASDB) was established by our state legislature in 1912. Today ASDB remains a public school and serves over 2,500 children.

    In my child’s own school district, there are a number of very gifted educators who work with children with a wide range of special education needs. While private schools may be a wonderful option for some parents, it is neither accurate nor appropriate to suggest that children with specialized learning needs can only be successfully served outside of the public schools.

    Lisa Hawkins
    Today’s site moderator

  10. [...] education-related reads: . 2009 Legislative Session: Education Funding Voting Record by Legislator Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction: Why You Should Pay Attention to This Office Public Education and Our AZ Constituion Public Education, the AZ Constituion & the NO TAX [...]

  11. [...] learn more about the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and its importance go to Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction; Why You Should Pay Attention to this Office Categories: Recent News House Passes Education Jobs Bill that Could Send $211 million [...]

  12. CTE Teacher says:

    Huppenthal HAS voted against funding for education most of his career- but have you seen this?

    http://thinkprogress.org/2010/06/21/student-gop-senator-education/

  13. It was very saddening to watch a debate among the three remaining Republican primaray candidates for State Superintendent of Public Instruction, and learn many disheartening things.

    1) All three favor the odious charter school system.

    2) Margaret Dugan, formerly assistant in charge of keeping Arizona public schools among the lowest quality in the nation, takes pride in being the bigot who disabled the bilingual education system which assured Spanish-only students at least a fighting chance to get some other education while they were learning English. Nope.

    3) John Huppenthal also claims to have been a person involved in elevating Arizona schools to their current benthic level of educating students, still near the bottom of states in the US for public education. Much worse, he gloats in an endorsement from the bigot responsible for writing SB1070, who in turn claims inspiration from white power advocates. Nope.

    Beth Price appeared worn out with the years, and had trouble keeping her thoughts focused and her sentences complete. Nevertheless, she has an outsider’s excellent view of what’s wrong with Arizona schools, which she explained by the metrics she used as a junior college administrator, to measure the problems, and a plan of remediation for those problems. Until you’ve measured a problem, you don’t know anything about it. She made the other two candidates seem, correctly, to be in denial about the abysmal state of Arizona’s K-12 education system, while she was measuring it and could recite the results. Yes, best of a bad lot, but yes.

    xanthian.

  14. @Meredith
    Your comment has pushed me over the edge. We need someone to jerk the public school funding back.. cut it by 80% is what I would do.. charter schools, private schools and home schools get FAR FAR FAR better results. Your comment helped me decide to vote for John Huppenthal, thank you.

  15. [...] Two candidates have emerged from the Arizona primary election for Superintendent of Public Instruction.  They are Penny Kotterman and John Huppenthal.  The Superintendent of Public Instruction is the top education official in the state, and acts as the Chairman of the State Board of Education and is the head of the Department of Education.  The Superintendent of Public Instruction influences policy in the legislature, is responsible for the implementation of education legislation and is in charge of the Department of Education and its interactions with school districts.  Further, the Superintendent of Public Instruction commands the bully pulpit on education issues and has a great deal of influence on the direction the state takes regarding educational issues like school funding.  Because of the importance of this officeholder, we have gathered information to help you make an informed decision on November 2 when you elect the next Superintendent of Public Instruction.  To read you should pay attention to the office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, click here. [...]

  16. Mike says:

    I cannot seem to find anything about why the position ended up being one that had to be elected. Does anyone know? I blogged for the K12 Center on this yesterday and tried to find humor, however, it is of concern….

    http://www.storiesfromschoolaz.org/2010/11/elections-squirrels-teaching-and-shiny-things.html

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