TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) _ Arizona's 1987 Teacher of the Year has given up his honorary post after falsely claiming to have a doctoral degree.

''I still believe that Dan Bailey is a fine, quality teacher,'' Bob Strauss, Tucson Unified School District board president, said Thursday. ''The man is an outstanding teacher respected by all. He's a little tarnished today.''

The state Department of Education, which sponsors the award, on Thursday issued a statement saying Bailey, a sixth-grade teacher, relinquished the honor for personal reasons.

The matter came to light earlier this month as Northern Arizona University officials planned to give Bailey an honorary degree, Strauss said. NAU contacted the UA and discovered that Bailey never received a doctorate from that school.

Tucson and Phoenix newspapers reported Friday that Bailey was on a camping trip and could not be reached for comment. Telephone calls Thursday night and Friday to a listing for a Daniel Bailey in Tucson was not answered.

Strauss said Bailey had falsely stated on his award application that he holds a doctoral degree in education from the University of Arizona. He said Bailey never misrepresented his credentials to district officials, and a doctorate was not a prerequisite for the teacher of the year award.

''Why he put it on there, I'm not sure,'' Strauss said. ''He offered to resign from the district and I recommended against it, as we fight hard to get quality teachers like him.''

Bailey has been paid as a teacher with a master's degree and partial credit toward a doctorate, Strauss said. University of Arizona records indicate Bailey received his master's degree.

Chris Hemann, corporate-affairs vice president for First Interstate Bank, which co-sponsors the award, said the four runners-up will share the title and duties.

''I think the program will continue,'' Hemann said.

Because of the incident, the state Department of Education will begin checking the credentials of teachers who are finalists for the award, department spokesman Jim Whitelaw said.

The state honor carries a $5,000 prize, which officials said Bailey has said he will return.