Gov. Janet Napolitano appointed former state schools chief Jaime Molera to the state Board of Education Wednesday. If confirmed by the Arizona Senate, Molera, a Republican, will serve on the board for a term that expires in 2011.
His appointment will place Molera on the state board at the same time as former political rival and current state Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne. Molera had run against Horne for the schools chief post when Horne was first elected in 2002 in a bitterly fought campaign. The two opposed each other on how English language learners should be taught and on whether there should be alternatives to the state’s graduation test, Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards.
Regarding his disagreements with Horne, Molera said, “That was a long time ago.”
“My goal, as a board member, is not to be an activist,” he said. “I’m not going to create legislation. At the end of the day, I think our job is to make sure the (academic) standards are meaningful.”
Amy Rezzonico, press secretary to Horne, said Horne declined to comment except to say, “It’s not prudent at this point to comment on Gov. Napolitano’s appointment of Jaime Molera to the state Board of Education.”
John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association, said Molera’s position on assessment and accountability make him a “great choice” for the position.
“I think this will be a valuable and constructive addition to the board,” he said.
He said the well-known differences between Horne and Molera could be something to watch.
“It could certainly make for some interesting board discussions,” he said. “Neither man is shy and both have some definite and well-established ideas about education.”
Prior to running against Horne, Molera served as state superintendent from 2001 to 2003, filling out the term of Lisa Graham Keegan, who resigned from office. Molera had previously served as an advisor on policy and legislative affairs to former Gov. Jane Hull from 1997 to 2001.
Molera also directed the 2000 campaign to pass Proposition 301, a major education funding initiative, and was instrumental in the passage of legislative funding to support the new university-based medical campus in downtown Phoenix. He is chairman of the Arizona Prevention Resource Center and a board member of the Arizona School Choice Trust.
Molera’s company, The Molera Alvarez Group, lobbies for the Mesa Unified School District, but Molera said he plans to recuse himself from any state board decision involving the district.
Molera said he hadn’t given a lot of thought to specific tasks he would like to see accomplished during his term.
“I think my positions have always been very clear, though,” he said, adding that he also believes in keeping regulation of education “as low as possible.”
“We don’t want to choke districts with regulatory requirements,” he said.