Arizona Gov. Hobbs selects Anna Tovar for state Board of Education
By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs tapped political colleague Anna Tovar for the state Board of Education.
And Tovar won't be quitting her post on the Arizona Corporation Commission.
Gubernatorial press aide Christian Slater said there is nothing illegal about Tovar keeping her $79,500-a-year job as a utility regulator and taking the unpaid slot on the board which, within the confines of state law, regulates the operation of public schools. That includes traditional district-run schools as well as charter schools which cannot charge tuition beyond the state aid they get but which can be operated on a for-profit basis.
Most notably, the it is the board that decides the minimum curriculum for schools as well as graduation requirements. That also has included over the years debates about the teaching of sex education.
It also has the power to grant and remove certification for teachers in traditional schools. Charter schools, however, are free to set their own requirements for teachers.
Tovar must get confirmation from the Republican-controlled Senate within a year to keep her job.
But she is unlikely to face the same battles as those who have been tapped for appointed positions since becoming governor in January.
Senate President Warren Petersen created a special Committee on Director Nominations after Hobbs' election to screen her nominees. And that panel, led Sen. Jake Hoffman, R-Queen Creek, has rejected several of the governor's picks, approved some, and has yet to hold hearings on others.
That stalemate resulted in Hobbs doing an end-run, withdrawing all the pending nominations and then renaming those same people as "executive deputy directors'' of the same agencies, a move that she said avoids the need for confirmation but that Hoffman contends is illegal.
But Petersen told Capitol Media Services that he will not send Tovar's nomination to Hoffman's committee. He said Tovar -- and anyone who will not be heading a state agency -- will go through "relevant committees.''
In this case, that is likely to be the Senate Education Committee.
That is headed by Sen. Ken Bennett, R-Prescott. And Bennett has a special knowledge of the position Tovar will fill: He served for seven years on the state Board of Education and was its president for two years.
Bennett called the governor's decision to name a sitting elected statewide official to the board "unusual.'' But he said he does not believe it is a problem.
He pointed out that there are others who are on the 11-member board who are required to hold down other full-time positions. That includes the president of a state university, the owner or administrator of a charter school, a classroom teacher and a county school superintendent.
In fact, Bennett pointed out he served as the chief executive officer of Bennett Oil, which he described as a full-time job, while on the board.
Bennett said he never served in the Legislature at the same time as Tovar.
"I look forward to visiting with her and going through the process of having the entire committee consider her,'' he said.
Tovar, for her part, said she doesn't see a problem holding both the full-time spot at the commission and the unpaid one on the board which meets about once a month.
"I wouldn't commit to something if I didn't have, No. 1, the passion or the time to commit to it,'' she said. And Tovar said that having served on the commission since being elected in 2020 gives her a "strong foundation'' to be able to do that job and still have time left over.
Tovar, who taught for five years in the Tolleson Elementary School District, is better known for her elected positions, and not just her election to the commission as the first Latina to hold statewide office.
She previously served in the state House and then in the Senate, including being the Senate minority leader. And in 2016 she was elected mayor of Tolleson, a community where, before being a legislator, she was a member of the city council.
Tovar fills one of the four slots on the 11-member state board reserved for "public'' members, replacing Christine Burton, tapped in 2017 by Gov. Doug Ducey, who left the board in January.
So what took 10 months?
"We did a wide-ranging and diligent search to ensure we picked the best person to protect public education and ensure every Arizona student has the tools they need to survive,'' Slater said.
State schools chief Tom Horne, who serves on the board by virtue of his position, said he sees no problem with Tovar serving both on the commission and the education board.
He pointed out this is no different than someone who serves as an unpaid member of a local school board. And state law specifically allows them to hold other elected office.
On X or Threads: @azcapmedia