Arizona School Boards Association leaves national group

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona School Boards Association said it is leaving the National School Boards Association as it continues to be besieged by controversy surrounding the national organization.

ASBA Executive Director Sheila Harrison-Williams informed NSBA Executive Director John Heim of the state group’s decision in a letter Wednesday, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.

“While we continue to believe there is value in a national association of school boards, our primary obligation is to advocate for Arizona students to have strong, quality public schools,” Harrison wrote. -Williams. “We are unable to do this if we are continually called to account for the actions of the NSBA.”

Harrison-Williams’ letter referred to a letter from the national association sent to President Joe Biden last fall asking him to use federal law enforcement to help respond to threats and acts of violence against school board members and equating some of the acts with “domestic terrorism”.

The Dysart Unified School District Board of Trustees voted in December to leave the ASBA, citing frustration that the Arizona group had not also left the national organization, as some associations have done. other states.

The ASBA previously said it disagreed with the national group’s letter, and the NSBA apologized for sending it.

Harrison-Williams said it was not enough that NSBA board members “realized the huge error of employing this kind of language when referring to parents and guardians of public school students.”

Clearly, she writes, the ASBA’s continued membership in the NSBA “has become a hindrance to the work we undertake here in Arizona on behalf of Arizona public school students.”

After successfully suing the Arizona Legislature last year to strike down key parts of the state budget, the ASBA has found itself targeted by Republican lawmakers who have long opposed its efforts. to lobby local school boards.

A Republican-controlled Senate committee last month introduced a bill to ban the more than 200 association-member school boards from using taxpayer dollars to pay annual membership fees.

GOP lawmakers voting for the bill cited the national group’s letter to Biden as a key driver for the legislation.

ASBA communications director Heidi Otero told the Capitol Times that member districts have asked to discuss NSBA membership and concern over the letter has not diminished.

“It kind of became something bigger than it was,” Otero said. “And so the board decided that we were just going to at this point separate ourselves from the national association and make sure that we just focus on Arizona and public schools and students and so on.”

Andrew B. Reiter