Arizona schools chief candidates Hoffman, Horne differ on top education priority
PHOENIX — The two candidates for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction have differing opinions on what the state is facing as its top education priority.
Kathy Hoffman, the incumbent Democrat, believes it’s hiring and retaining well-qualified teachers.
“Our number one priority is ensuring that every classroom has highly effective teachers because without their expertise, without having the best teaching practices possible, the academic achievement is not possible,” Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Friday.
Hoffman’s opponent, Republican Tom Horne, wants to put more emphasis on upping testing numbers.
“We need to get the focus back on academics and get the test scores up,” Horne told The Mike Broomhead Show.
Hoffman said she’s made teacher improvements a priority since taking office in 2019.
In addition to hiring and retaining educators, Hoffman wants to continue raising salaries.
Arizona ranked No. 46 in average teacher salary in 2019-20, according to the National Education Association. The Grand Canyon State moved up two spots in 2020-21 to No. 44, with teachers making an average of $52,157 annually.
“Yes, we have been making good progress,” Hoffman said. “We do still have a severe teacher shortage in Arizona, especially for specialty areas like special education teachers, math and science, particularly in rural parts of the state, particularly where teachers can leave Arizona and make $10,000-20,000 more just by crossing state lines.”
Horne, who served as schools chief from 2003-2011, believes a shift in academic focus will help test scores.
He claims Hoffman has implemented strategies that have hurt Arizona students.
“The duty of a teacher is to teach the state standards,” Horne said. “It’s unprofessional and an abuse of their profession and of their position to teach a captive audience their political ideology.
“That’s an abuse and if I’m elected, we’re going use discipline to put a stop to that. They need to teach the academics and not push their ideology on kids.”