More opposition to classroom cameras: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey says he wouldn't support proposal

Stacey Barchenger
Arizona Republic
Gov. Doug Ducey speaks during a Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day Ceremony at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix on Dec. 7, 2021.

Add Gov. Doug Ducey to the list of Republican politicians opposing gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake's idea to put cameras in Arizona's classrooms.

Ducey told reporters Tuesday he would support efforts to give parents more insight about what their children are learning, but said that can be done short of putting cameras into classrooms.

"We've got young kids in these classrooms," the governor said. "We want to protect them from predators."

Ducey said "there are responsible things we can do to improve public education, and I think clarity and transparency on the curriculum is the way to do that."

He has foreshadowed education legislation in the session that begins in January that would give parents more insight into classrooms and school boards, but Ducey has repeatedly declined to provide any specifics of what those measures might be.

Already, state lawmakers have signaled an interest in turning the wave of conservative attention on school issues — from COVID-19 related mandates to cameras in classrooms and alleged surveillance of parents in Scottsdale — into action at the Capitol.

Bills already introduced would make school board elections partisan, allow political protests on school property, and give lawmakers the authority to initiate investigations of school boards by the Attorney General's Office.

One bill would prevent school boards from using taxpayer dollars to pay dues to state and national school boards associations, which became target of conservatives after the national association suggested parents were practicing "domestic terrorism" as it raised concern about violence against board members. Another bill would require parental permission before a student participates in "any school student group or club involving sexuality, gender or gender identity."

Putting cameras in classrooms would require a bill from the Legislature, and Ducey's comments Tuesday suggested he would oppose such a measure should it reach his desk next year.

Gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake speaks at the Back the Blue Rally on Oct. 2, 2021, in Cave Creek, Arizona.

Lake, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, discussed her idea to put cameras in school classrooms in early November but has not provided more details about logistics of recording approximately 1 million public school kids or who would cover the cost. Lake said in a statement Tuesday that "all we are asking for is more transparency; anyone against that should be treated as suspect."

GOP candidates also oppose idea

While the issue has gained some support among conservatives nationally, it has divided Republican candidates for Arizona governor.

Former congressman Matt Salmon and former member of the Arizona Board of Regents Karrin Taylor Robson both said this week they oppose adding cameras to classrooms, saying it would be a dangerous expansion of government surveillance.

Republican businessman Steve Gaynor, who also is seeking the GOP nomination, said in a Tuesday statement that debating cameras was a "distraction," and the state needs to "reform our education system to give parents better school choices they can trust."

Treasurer Kimberly Yee said in a statement that she, a mother, "would not support big government watching over young children."   

"We must ensure that schools are teaching appropriate content to our young students," Yee said. "As governor, I will hold teachers, administrators and school boards who are teaching inappropriate content accountable for their actions."

Ducey, who is term limited and must leave office in early 2023, expressed his opposition to the idea following a memorial ceremony marking the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Reach reporter Stacey Barchenger at stacey.barchenger@arizonarepublic.com or 480-416-5669. Follow her on Twitter @sbarchenger.

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