Sunday, December 27, 2015

Another view: On Sen. Sylvia Allen's appointment as Education Committee chair

Allen's crackpot beliefs (e.g., the earth is 6,000 years old) are the fodder for hilarity on the Comedy Channel - where Arizona politicians like to be, I guess. But David Safier (TucsonWeekly/TheRange) presents a somewhat moderating view of what Allen might - and might not - do in her new role.

I'm asking these two questions in complete seriousness. Will Allen do any more damage as Education Committee chair than the garden variety conservative Republican senator? And is there a chance she might be an occasional breath of fresh air beyond the comic relief she'll afford?

Time will tell, but I don't know how Allen's position as education committee chair will lead to worse legislation than would come out of the senate with any other Republican in that seat. She'll push bills she likes through committee and block those she doesn't like, just like any other chair. In most cases, she won't make significantly different decisions than her predecessor Kelli Ward. And I doubt she'll have much influence on the actual voting on the senate floor. If I'm right about this, the end result will be the same pro-privatization, anti-"government schools" legislation which has been the norm in our Republican-majority legislature, and the same school-starving budget decisions.

However, one thing might be different. Allen is not one to walk in perfect lockstep with the Republican leadership when she disagrees with them. Call her a loose cannon, call her someone with the courage of her convictions, she has been known to leave the fold when it suits her. She just might say things from her lofty perch at the head of the ed committee that embarrass the Republican establishment from Ducey on down—maybe even speak truth to power now and then. And as Sen. Steve Farley, a Democrat, says, Allen is willing to talk with people from both sides of the aisle. So who knows? The Democrats on the education committee might be granted a wee bit of consideration once in awhile. A few of their suggestions could even work their way into education legislation which would never see the light of day under a chair who blindly followed Biggs' party line.

As David says, time will tell. But Scriber is not a big fan of time alone improving much of anything - other than good wine in a bottle. But you have to start with good wine (and, in the case of education, good policies).

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