Future of Arizona Schools: Hoffman, Horne face off in debate for state superintendent

The candidates spoke about critical race theory, school safety and more.
Published: Sep. 14, 2022 at 10:22 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- The two candidates running for Superintendent of Instruction had very different solutions for improving Arizona schools. Kathy Hoffman focused heavily on mental health resources, and Tom Horne pushed for more discipline.

A heated discussion took place between current Superintendent Hoffman and former Superintendent Horne Wednesday afternoon as they addressed several issues surrounding Arizona education. One of Hoffman’s main priorities is mental health for students. She believes mental health services are critical to the well-being of students and the quality of education.

Even before Uvalde, Hoffman has prioritized school safety as well. She said during her argument that school districts should get the power to choose what school safety measures they want enforced on their campuses.

“I launched the school safety task force and that produced resources for schools including model safety plan, and in 2019 I’ve grown the school safety grant program to a $12 million program to a $80 million program; which again has reduced the student to counselor ratio by 20%,” Hoffman explained.

But Horne said if elected, he’ll require more police presence at schools and propose the option for other people like veterans or school security officers to get trained or licensed to carry on campus.

Horne also expressed discipline is key to improving academics and test scores, something he kept a high priority during his leadership from 2003 to 2011. Math scores were at 60%, while reading and writing were at 70%. That’s compared to 42% during Kathy Hoffman’s administration.

“At my school I served 24 years on the school board, we didn’t reverse a teacher one time on discipline; not one time,” Horne said. “We were known as the toughest district around, our learning came up, our test scores came up.”

While Hoffman admits test scores need improvement, she said Arizona is headed in the right direction because of programs she launched during the pandemic. “We found nationally more significant decline in reading and math over the past year than over the past 30 years in history, but yet, Arizona did make some growth across all demographics and across income levels,” Hoffman said.

Another popular topic was the teacher shortage. Both candidates said teachers need to be more competitive, but they had other solutions to the problem. Although Horne said teachers need to be more supported when it comes to discipline, he said, “we have to have orderly classrooms otherwise kids can’t learn.” Hoffman’s approach focused more on innovative programs she has launched, like the Arizona Residency Program, which creates a new pipeline to recruit teachers.