Who is Going to Raise Arizona Education Out of the National Basement? Here’s Who is Running for State Superintendent.

Who is Going to Raise Arizona Education Out of the National Basement? Here’s Who is Running for State Superintendent.

By Robert Gundran

June 10, 2022

Arizona’s top education official is up for election this year, with LGBT+ rights, class sizes, and teacher pay as some of the main topics on the public’s mind.

Arizona’s current Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kathy Hoffman, is running for reelection. Hoffman is unopposed on the Democratic side of the ticket, and will face one of three Republicans that are vying for their party’s nomination in November’s general election.

Early voting starts on July 6, so bookmark this article before you receive your ballot or head to your local polling place.

Here’s who is on the ballot for the Aug. 2 primary election:

Kathy Hoffman

Hoffman was elected to state superintendent in 2018. She spent her entire career in public education, first as a preschool teacher, and then as a speech language pathologist.

She’s been a proponent of teacher retention and helped launch a $5 million program in conjunction with Northern Arizona University to help recruit teachers to teach in Arizona. 

Hoffman has also been a fierce advocate for the rights of LGBT+ students. She criticized Gov. Doug Ducey for signing restrictive legislation against transgender children.

One of her first acts in office was to push for the repeal of an Arizona law that banned any courses on AIDS or HIV from showing homosexual relationships in a positive light.

The state superintendent said on her campaign website that she supports paid-parental leave for educators as well as universal pre-K and full-day kindergarten.

Hoffman has spoken in favor of increasing funding for school counselors and social workers as opposed to beefing up law enforcement presence in Arizona schools. 

Tom Horne

Horne served as state superintendent from 2003 to 2011 and as Arizona attorney general from 2011 to 2015. 

During his time as attorney general he sued public schools to stop undocumented Arizonans from getting in-state tuition. He also threatened to sue Bisbee in 2013 over an ordinance that recognized same-sex couples. 

While he was state superintendent, he helped ban “ethnic studies” courses in Tucson. The ban was later overturned by a federal judge, who determined that it was racially discriminatory and violated students’ constitutional rights. 

Horne has also taken the mainstream Republican position of opposing so-called “critical race theory” being taught in Arizona public schools, despite the fact that it has not been a part of public schools curriculum in Arizona.

His campaign website lists his main three priorities as such:

  • Fight critical race theory
  • Stop cancel culture 
  • Promote patriotism, quality education, and real learning 

“Liberals are trying to indoctrinate our school children to hate America,” Horne’s website proclaims without evidence. 

Under the section of his site labeled “Tom’s Plan” he makes no mention of reducing class sizes, when Arizona had the highest average class size in the country at 23.5, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. 

He also made no mention of increasing teacher pay. While Arizona teachers rank roughly in the middle for average starting pay, the state ranked 44 out of 50 for overall average teacher pay. 

Michelle Udall

Udall is a state representative who has served in the Arizona House of Representatives since 2017. 

Her campaign website is sparse on policy, but during Udall’s time in the state legislature, she has supported most mainstream Republican positions on education, including a ban on books and restrictions on the rights of LGBT+ youths

Udall has positioned herself as an opponent of so-called “critical race theory,” a non-issue in Arizona as the college-level academic theory is not taught in any of the state’s public schools. She also supports charter schools taking over underperforming public schools. 

Udall voted in favor of allowing the East Valley Institute of Technology to offer associate’s degrees. 

On her campaign website she linked COVID with “dangerous ideas creeping into our children’s classrooms.”

Udall has claimed, without evidence, that “bad ideas” are being pushed in the classroom by labor unions and out-of-state interests, but did not expand on what those bad ideas were. 

Shiry Sapir

Sapir is a business owner who is running for state office for the first time. 

She was endorsed by many Big Lie advocates, including Rep. Paul Gosar and other far-right local politicians. 

Sapir is another candidate who opposes so-called “critical race theory,” something that is not part of the curriculum in Arizona public schools. 

She also opposes privacy protections for LGBT+ students, including allowing students to express their identity without parental knowledge. The ramifications of forcing teachers or counselors to tell parents about a student’s identity could be public schools “outing” LGBT+ youth to unapproving parents. 

Sapir’s campaign website accuses, without evidence, the Department of Education of being “run by a radical political puppet of the left.”

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  • Robert Gundran

    Robert Gundran grew up in the Southwest, spending equal time in the Valley and Southern California throughout his life. He graduated from Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in 2018 and wrote for The Arizona Republic and The Orange County Register.

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