New Arizona school superintendent discusses priorities for improving public education

The 77-year-old says one of his priorities is getting a police officer on every school campus.
Published: Jan. 3, 2023 at 7:30 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Tom Horne knows the job well, serving as Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction from 2003 to 2011. Now, he’s back at it again. “I felt very strongly that things were not good, and I had a choice,” said Horne. “I could sit home and have smoke come out my ears or get out there and do something.”

Arizona’s Family sat down with the superintendent for the first time since he defeated incumbent Kathy Hoffman in November by roughly 9,100 votes.

Horne has made improving test scores, helping struggling schools, and making students pass a test to graduate some of his top priorities. “Test scores are very low,” said Horne. “Students have to be prepared for an international competitive economy, and I am very focused on getting test scores back up.”

But a couple of Horne’s other campaign promises continue to stir up controversy. Horne promised to eliminate bilingual education and remove critical race theory from the classroom, despite no specific evidence that the curriculum is being taught in Arizona. “We will have a hotline where parents can call, and let us know if they think political stuff is going on in their classrooms,” said Horne.

Horne is walking into a public education system that faces some serious challenges. A shortage of teachers and staff is one of the biggest issues.

Horne supports a bump in teachers’ pay to be more competitive with other states. He also supports lawmakers raising the aggregate spending limit to prevent K-12 schools across the state from having to cut millions of dollars from their budgets. “The immediate priority number one is to get the spending limit lifted so that the schools will have the money the legislature itself budgeted for them,” said Horne.

The superintendent was also asked about past problems he’s had in office. Horne was previously accused of using the attorney general’s office for his re-election campaign. “They were false charges made against me that caused me to lose my last election,” said Horne. “I was vindicated by the courts.” No criminal charges were ever filed against Horne, but he did pay a $10,000 fine.

Horne has also said he would like to put a police officer on the campus of every school across the state.