Candidates for state superintendent face off in debate

Republican Frank Riggs is facing off against Democrat Kathy Hoffman and they met for a televised debate Thursday evening. (Source: Arizona PBS/Arizona Horizon)

Come November, Arizona will have a newly-elected superintendent of public instruction.

Republican Frank Riggs is facing off against Democrat Kathy Hoffman and they met for a televised debate Thursday evening. It was the second debate the candidates had in two days and one of the central points of their disagreements is who the state needs running the Department of Education, an educator or a manager?

[SPECIAL SECTIONS: Election 2018 | Arizona politics]

Hoffman's been a teacher, and felt elected officials were failing Arizona students.

"I saw firsthand what was happening in Arizona’s classrooms," she said. "That was when I decided that we must have more educators running for office, talking about the issues facing our students.”

[RELATED: Riggs v Hoffman lineup appears finalized for the State Superintendent race in November]

In the debate both candidates agreed that Arizona schools are not headed in the right direction. While Hoffman was a huge supporter of #RedForEd, Riggs says he felt this year’s walkout showed bad faith on the part of teachers.

"I supported it originally," he said. "I thought it was organic and a true grassroots movement. It was quickly co-opted by very, very partisan individuals.”

Hoffman supports the choices charter schools offer to families, but she’s wary of for-profit involvement.

[RELATED: Frank Riggs narrowly wins GOP nomination for AZ superintendent]

"We have charter schools making millions of dollars of profit, yet they’re paying their teachers below average," she said.

Riggs, a former school board president and congressman, says charter school boards should have trained members, with no conflicts of interest. He thinks Hoffman simply doesn’t have the leadership or management skills it takes to lead the state’s Department of Education.

"I have an extensive and proven record of educational and legislative leadership and I think you need all of those strengths, again, to be a successful and effective superintendent," he said.

Another issue that came up was the school voucher program. Voters also get to decide whether to expand that program in November. Hoffman says altogether, she doesn’t want public money getting used on private tuition.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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