Arizona’s executive office elections have many candidates with experience in education, but how have they influenced the state’s education system?
Multiple executive offices are up for reelection this year, including offices important to the state’s educational system.
Eight candidates running for governor, state superintendent of public instruction, or state treasurer have current or former experience in education, which may influence their policymaking. Read on to learn about these important candidates and what they’ve done for education in Arizona.
Three of the top candidates for the governor’s seat—Democrats Katie Hobbs and Marco Lopez and Republican Karrin Taylor Robson—have had experience working in the educational sphere.
Hobbs is currently Arizona’s Secretary of State, and was a state legislator from 2011-2018, including as senate minority leader from 2015-2018.
According to her campaign website, Hobbs focused on “robust education funding” during her time in the legislature. During the 2011 legislative session, she voted against a partisan education budget that defunded career and technical education for ninth grade students and reduced the Department of Education’s apportionment by nearly $64 million. That same year, Hobbs voted to pass a bipartisan bill that prohibited cyberbullying and required schools to implement a procedure for punishing students who commit an act of bullying or cyberbullying.
As part of her “Plan for an Inclusive Arizona,” Hobbs said that, as governor, she would work to explicitly ban discrimination against LGBTQ+ students in schools. She has also received the endorsement of both the Arizona Education Association and the National Education Association.
Much of Lopez’s work in both the public and private sectors primarily focused on trade and business relations between the US and Mexico. The Nogales, Mexico native has worked as director of the Arizona Department of Commerce, policy advisor for former Governor Janet Napolitano, chief of staff of US Customs and Border protection under former President Obama, and served as mayor of Nogales, Arizona, among other things.
In his work at Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s foundation, he helped launch Connect2Compete, a low-cost broadband program aimed at providing low-cost broadband connectivity to low-income households and students.
Through internet provider Cox Communications, the Connect2Compete program has provided low-cost internet for nearly ten years to families who receive government financial assistance and have at least one child in K-12 school. The program greatly helped Arizona families get connected during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic—Cox saw an increase of 161% in families using the program during the first year of the pandemic.
During this election cycle, Lopez has not been endorsed by any major education groups, but he has been endorsed by various members of Arizona K-12 and community college school boards, as well as a former deputy state superintendent of public instruction.
Karrin Taylor Robson
Robson was appointed to the Arizona Board of Regents by Gov. Ducey in 2017, where she served until 2021. Ducey said in a statement that Robson brought “a wealth of experience in economic development and overseeing large enterprises and projects” as well as “a passion for higher education.”
While on the board, she served as the chair of the Business, Finance, and Capital Resources Committee, and was a member of the Audit Committee and Academic Affairs and Educational Attainment Committee.
The boards Robson served on oversee academic plans, program quality, issues relating to financial reporting, and evaluate and recommend changes to policies, practices and procedures for everything related to university finances.
Some of Robson’s educational priorities include universal access to school vouchers, empowering school principals to allocate funding efficiently, investing in career and technical education, and making classroom curriculums and materials accessible to parents.
She is currently not endorsed by any educational organizations or any education officials.
The Arizona Treasurer is responsible for managing the state’s investments and multi-billion dollar budget, including disbursing appropriations to local governments and schools. Currently, the treasurer is Republican Kimberly Yee, who is running for reelection against two primary opponents. Arizona Sen. Martín Quezada is running unopposed on the Democratic ticket.
Yee has been the treasurer since 2019, and prior to that, she served in the state legislature as both a representative and a senator since 2011. Yee also worked as a fellow for the California State Superintendent of Public Education and as a policy analyst for the California State Board of Education.
During her tenure as treasurer, Yee has led the effort on various educational initiatives, including implementing a financial literacy class as a graduation requirement for high school students, and creating and leading a financial literacy task force to help all Arizonans have a grasp on basic financial concepts.
However, while Yee touts having increased local and state government assets, which help fund public services like schools, in 2011, she voted to pass an education budget that reduced appropriations to the Department of Education by nearly $64 billion.
Despite her extensive experience in education, the only education official Yee has received an endorsement from is former US Education Assistant Secretary Bill Evers.
Quezada has been a state senator for district 29 since 2015 and an at-large member of the Pendergast Elementary School District Governing Board since 2010.
On his campaign website, Quezada says he will prioritize financial literacy efforts “to ensure everyone has the resources to succeed and the opportunity to prosper.” He upheld this claim in 2019 and 2020, when he voted to pass three bills that increase access to financial literacy programs for high school students, low-income families, and other Arizona residents.
Currently, Quezada is not endorsed by any education groups or officials.
Superintendent of Public Instruction
The Arizona superintendent of public instruction directly oversees the state’s public school system and leads the Arizona Department of Education. Currently, the superintendent is Democrat Kathy Hoffman. She is running for her seat once again, unopposed on the Democratic ticket.
Former state superintendent of public education Tom Horne is running in a crowded Republican primary against state Rep. and former school board member Michelle Udall, Shiry Shapir, a Scottsdale parent with no prior background in education, and two write-in candidates.
Hoffman has a background working as a speech language pathologist in the Peoria Unified School District and is a member of the Arizona Education Association and the Arizona Federation for Teachers.
Upon her election in 2019, Hoffman was the first educator to lead the Arizona Department of Education in over 20 years. As superintendent, Hoffman has made strides in attracting and retaining teachers in Arizona, investing in student mental health by lowering the student-to-counselor ratio, reducing discrimination against LGBTQ+ students in schools, investing in programs to close the educational digital divide, and more.
Her accomplishments as superintendent of public education has led to her earning various awards by social work and education groups.
Hoffman does not currently have endorsements listed on her campaign website.
Horne was state superintendent of public instruction from 2003-2011, when he left the office to run for Arizona Attorney General.
Horne says on his website that while in office, he “was a crusader against mediocrity, laziness, and political indoctrination as a substitute for academic teaching.” He did so by requiring that students pass a standardized test to graduate, pushing for an end to bilingual instruction, and banning “ethnic studies,” a move that a federal judge found unconstitutional and motivated by racial discrimination.
As part of his new plan, Horne says he will move away from bilingual education for English learners, push for school choice, and reinstate a standardized testing requirement for graduation, with special university scholarships for the highest-performing students.
However, Arizona currently has an English-only education law, the last in the nation. During the 2020-2021 school year, there were 80,980 English learner students, which is 6.6% of all students in Arizona, and only 2% of English learners were proficient in English language arts testing.
He also decries school closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, “identity politics” based on ethnicity, and “critical race theory.”
Horne is currently endorsed by a member of a school board and various individual educators.
Udall has been a state representative since 2017, has been chair of the House Education Committee since 2019, and is a former Mesa school board member. Prior to her time in politics, she taught math in Mesa.
During her time in the legislature, Udall has co-sponsored bills that would ban “critical race theory” and expand parent access to library materials in school, both topics she said she would continue to focus on as superintendent of public instruction.
She is currently not endorsed by any education officials.