By Jenny Rose & Daniel Scarpinato
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday October 23, 2002
Hopefuls for superintendent of public instruction job learn the seat includes vote on board of regents
Arizona's superintendent of public instruction has a vote on the Arizona Board of Regents, but two of the candidates for this state office were not aware of their voting responsibility until yesterday.
With only two weeks left until election day, Jay Blanchard (D) and Tom Horne (R) were confused over whether, as an ex-officio board member, the superintendent of public instruction is entitled to vote. John Zajac (L) got the news late last week.
"Well, that's good news," said Horne, when he was told the superintendent does have voting privileges.
Horne said he had always been under the impression that it was a voting seat before deciding to run for the position, but Blanchard had told Horne it was not a voting seat, leading Horne to believe the
superintendent is virtually powerless on the board.
Blanchard said the other candidates should know for themselves what their responsibilities are.
After an inquiry from the Arizona Daily Wildcat, Blanchard re-investigated the matter.
Originally, his campaign interpreted the constitution backwards, he said.
Since it does not state specifically that the superintendent has a vote, lawyers assumed that the position did not have one.
"I've spent my adult life as an advocate of higher education," he said. "I had planned and I had campaigned on being an active member of ABOR."
Zajac said he read the Arizona State Constitution and understood that the superintendent does have a voting seat.
Zajac said he tried explaining the voting privileges of the superintendent to the other two candidates at several forums held over the past few months.
"When they get elected, they'll have a big surprise," he said.
Regents president Jack Jewett said the superintendent's vote on this board is an important one.
Jewett said the next few years will be pivotal for the university system, and board of regents members will have an even more important role in making decisions about university missions and tuition increases.
There are eleven voting members on the board, eight of whom are appointed by the governor to serve eight-year terms.
There is one voting student regent who only has voting privileges for one year out of a two-year term.
The two final voting members are the governor and the superintendent. They hold a voting seat for as long as they hold office, and can hold key votes that will sway the board's decisions
on issues key issues in higher education.
For example, the regents voted five-to-six to increase tuition at the universities by 4 percent. The governor and superintendent voted in the majority, against raising tuition by 12 percent, as President Pete Likins proposed.
Regents' spokesman Matt Ortega said while it is important for the superintendent to have an understanding of higher education, universities are most likely not one of the biggest issues of the superintendent's campaign.
"I think the voters aren't thinking about higher education," he said. "If you're running for public office, you can check the Internet, talk to everyone and still not find out what all your responsibilities are."
"They've got their focus where it probably needs to be," he said.