The incumbent superintendent will face off in November against a conservative former superintendent and a write-in Libertarian candidate.
Following Tuesday’s primary election, this year’s race for State Superintendent of Public Instruction will see two candidates who have filled the position before—current superintendent Kathy Hoffman and former Republican superintendent Tom Horne—and Sheila Reid-Shaver, a Libertarian party primary write-in candidate who has taught at Grand Canyon University.
Hoffman was the only Democrat on the primary ballot this year. Horne defeated Arizona Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, a former school board member, and Shiry Sapir, an entrepreneur with no experience working in education.
Hoffman has been state superintendent since 2019 and is the first Democrat to hold the position since 1995. Prior to running for office, she was a speech language pathologist at the Peoria Unified School District and was a member of the Arizona Education Association and the Arizona Federation for Teachers.
During her tenure as superintendent, she has created programs and grants to help bring in new teachers and retain existing ones amid a historic teacher shortage, led an initiative to repeal a homophobic education law, created the Equitable and Inclusive Practices Advisory Council to better represent marginalized communities in the school system, and more.
The priorities Hoffman lists on her campaign website for the next term include supporting universal Pre-K and full-day Kindergarten, pushing for paid parental leave for educators, expanding vocational education, and expanding access to digital learning tools among low-income and rural Arizona students.
Hoffman has also won various awards by state and national organizations, including Elected Public Official of the Year 2022 by the National Association of Social Workers’ Arizona Chapter and Advocate of the Year 2022 by the AZ School Counselors Association.
Horne was state superintendent from 2003-2011, leaving the office to run for Arizona attorney general. After losing his reelection primary to current AG Mark Brnovich, he has not run for public office again, until now.
Horne says on his website that much of his work as a “crusader against mediocrity, laziness, and political indoctrination as a substitute for academic teaching,” was undone, with “political agendas” supposedly taking priority over academics.
If he is reelected, Horne says he wants to “bring conservative values back to education,” which includes the promise to reign in so-called “critical race theory,” keeping a ban on bilingual education for English-learning students, requiring students to pass a standardized test in order to graduate, and putting control of failing school districts into the hands of the state.
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However, Horne may still face difficulty shaking off old controversies that cost his reelection for attorney general.
In 2014, he was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigations for allegedly breaking state and federal campaign finance laws; though the Arizona Secretary of State’s office found “reasonable cause” to believe the allegations were true, the Maricopa County Attorney’s office closed its investigation with no penalty.
Despite the then-attorney general’s investigation being dropped, the scandal destroyed his campaign, paving the way for Brnovich to win the Republican nomination in 2014.
Reid-Shaver is the Libertarian candidate for superintendent, winning the primary as a write-in candidate. Her teaching career began in California in the early 1990’s, lasting all the way until 2016, when she left her teaching position at GCU.
On her LinkedIn, she says she is part of the Libertarian Party Precinct Committee, which helps vote for the county Libertarian leadership and educates voters about the Libertarian Party.
She does not currently have a campaign website, but on Ballotpedia, Reid-Shaver says the three key messages of her campaign are supporting universal school choice, keeping school districts in the control of local school boards, and increasing opportunities for parents to be involved in their children’s education.