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Education superintendent Douglas announces We Are Listening state tour

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Saying she wants to hear the concerns and suggestions of Arizonans with a stake in education, Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas is hitting the road in the coming weeks with a 14-stop tour.

Charles Tack, a Department of Education spokesman, said the We Are Listening tour is something Douglas has wanted to do since taking office in January.

The first stop is Thursday, April 23, in Kingman. The tour ends June 20 in Springerville.

Douglas won largely on the issue of ridding Arizona of the Common Core State Standards. Bills targeting the standards failed this legislation, and Gov. Doug Ducey has called on the State Board of Education to thoroughly review Arizona’s version of the standards.

Common Core is just one topic that will be covered during the events, according to a Department of Education news release.

Tack said other possible topics include finances and Arizona’s new standardized test, AzMERIT.

“Just based on the feedback that our office has been receiving, we certainly know that funding is a major concern. We want to hear the different communities and how they’re being impacted and how additional funding might help them. We also know that the new assessment, the AzMERIT, is certainly a topic that is close to mind – especially with testing happening right now, so we certainly expect that.”

The tour will be an annual expedition, Tack said.

Maxwell Goshert, treasurer of the Coalition to Recall Diane Douglas, said he’s skeptical.

“We don’t believe that Diane Douglas has shown any indication that she will act on any feedback from the public,” he said.

“She hasn’t stepped forward as planned to help this massive educational deficit in Arizona,” Goshert added, “and we think that this is kind of a way to try to impede people who are not too happy with her.”

Tracey Benson, associate executive director of the Arizona School Boards Association, said the tour is a good opportunity for Douglas to hear from families across the state.

“If she’s interested or concerned about how Arizonans are feeling about the standards, I think it’s important that she get out and hear from communities and teachers, educators and school board members around the state,” Benson said. “Most of them, as we know, are overwhelmingly supportive of the standards, and I think that that affirmation will be a really good thing.”

Benson said it’s important for parents, teachers, school board members and administrators to attend the meetings and make their voices heard.

“The more voices that are a part of the discussion, the better off we’re all going to be.”