Kathy Hoffman, Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, described her campaign for reelection and the state of education in Arizona. She covered Covid and schools, teaching about racism in school, attacks on school boards, funding public education, and a scandal-ridden Republican challenger.

She spoke at the November 8, 2021 meeting of Democrats of Greater Tucson. She is the first teacher and the first Democrat to be elected as the Superintendent.

Superintendent Hoffman has spent her entire career working in public schools, first as a preschool teacher and later as a speech-language pathologist. She has fought for equal access to high-quality public education throughout her career, regardless of a student’s race, gender, or zip code.

“I did start my teaching career in Tucson, and I worked in the Vail School District before moving up here to Phoenix. So I still consider Tucson to be my second home,” she said.

Among her accomplishments are:

  • Launching the Tech Task Force to address the digital divide in our communities.
  • Providing an additional $21 million to fund more school counselors and social workers in 140 schools.

Covid hits schools

“The pandemic hit our schools, like a meteor hitting the earth,” she said. “We have restructured our work by holding virtual meetings to strengthen our relationships with public health organizations. We made sure that we’re disseminating the most up-to-date, accurate information so that our schools can continue to operate safely.”

“I have also hosted numerous educator roundtables, and I launched the technology task force to learn what the department could do to address the digital divide.”

“But one of our biggest responsibilities at this time is to allocate the federal Covid relief funding,” she continued. “We are in the process of allocating more than $4 billion to K-12 education in our schools.”

She explained, “Our focus has been to make sure our schools have the tools to support their students with in-person learning, to support our students’ mental health, and to accelerate student learning. As we know, this past year and a half was very disruptive to student learning. Also, to provide our teachers, our educators, and our schools with the supports and services that they need to make sure that we’re also maintaining a priority of educator recruitment and retention.”

7 Republican challengers

Hoffman is facing seven republican challengers, but she identified the adversary who is likely to win the primary.

“I will say the person with the most name recognition is Tom Horne. So many of you who’ve lived in Arizona for a while, are familiar with Tom Horne. He used to be the Superintendent about 20 years ago was also the Attorney General. He basically wants to go back to the way things were 20 years ago, and take us backward.

“I think if you Google him there are numerous scandals associated with Tom Horn over the past two decades. In his rhetoric, he is truly against our students, especially our students of color. He’s very supportive of the English-only laws. That is an area of contrast for us, especially for the Tucson and Pima County area. That’s a pretty stark difference between us.”        

Teaching about racism

Republicans oppose teaching about slavery in schools.

In response to a question about critical race theory, she answered: “We need to continue to hit on the message that we want our children to be critical thinkers, that we want them to have in our schools access to accurate history.”

She also discussed hooligans disrupting school board meetings. “Our teachers are the experts in instruction and in curriculum,” she said. “Parents should have conversations to understand what their kids are learning. Going to the school board meetings isn’t a healthy way to have discourse about what is being taught in our schools.”

“What we need to do is have those conversations between the parents and the teachers and even the school administration, rather than it being a big blow-up at school board meetings where nobody wins. That’s just a toxic type of conversation. We can encourage parents to be involved with their own children’s education and learn about the curriculum, see what’s being taught, learn about why it’s being taught, and learn about the Arizona standards.”

Video Table of Contents

12:23 – Q&A – What are you doing to prepare for Republican lies during the campaign?

14:41 – Q&A – How will your campaign show that parents have a role/voice in the shaping of educational policy, and avoid an adversarial relationship between schools and parents?

16:35 – Q&A – When did the schools receive the funding for additional social workers and counselors?

16:58 – Q&A – Will school libraries be funded?

18:30 – Q&A – Who do you anticipate will be your Republican opponent?

20:11 – Q&A – Is experiential learning, such as field trips, still a part of public education?

What will you do to see that this type of learning is made a part of Arizona public education?

21:14 – Q&A – How will you support public schools in the face of Governor Ducey’s re-direction of funds to schools without mask mandates?

22:15 – Q&A – Is there any statewide effort to help parents interact with their children’s teachers and programs?

 22:29 – Q&A – What have you done in AZ to help retain teachers and prevent burnout?

24:52 – Q&A – What do you see as your role in fighting voucher programs?

25:38 – Q&A – How do you anticipate spending $4B in school funds?

27:23 – Q&A – Do you feel that you’ve made progress in oversight of voucher programs?

29:44 – Q&A – Is there anything you can do to fight against the influence of the Koch-backed Freedom Center over our statewide curriculum?

30:53 – Q&A – In the event that Democrats take the State Legislature in 2022, what would your policy and budget priorities be in order to move Arizona out of its low public education rankings?

32:05 – DGT Announcements

Lack of funding is embarrassing

Arizona is at the bottom of the ranking for funding public education. When asked what her policy and budget priorities would be moving, she said, “There are a couple of areas where Arizona continues to lag behind the nation that I find to be very embarrassing. The fact that we don’t even have full-day kindergarten funded, the fact that only 19% of our three and four-year-old kids are in a preschool program, only 19%, is to me just so embarrassing. The fact that we are ranked fifth for teacher pay.

“And if you compare us to our neighboring states like Nevada and Utah, our teachers are making on average $10,000 less than the teachers just next door. These are some of the areas that we need to continue to fight for, which every other state in the country has recognized are important for making sure we have high-quality education for all of our students across the state. So if we could have a full-day kindergarten preschool, universal preschool, and fair, competitive pay for our teachers, that will really help the state move forward.”

Visiting school communities

Kathy Hoffman traveled to all 15 counties to visit school communities personally, including schools within our tribal nations.

“I knew when I took office that I wanted to reimagine what the role of Superintendent meant for our schools and for Arizona communities. To me, being Superintendent is not just an administrative role. So in my first year in office, I traveled to all 15 counties to visit our school communities personally, including schools within our tribal nations. I have many fond memories from my school visits across the state. In each one of these trips, it allowed me to talk directly with our teachers, principals, superintendents, and most importantly our students to hear from them directly.”

Regarding her experiences within the schools, she said, “One thing that really stood out to me from that trip was when one of the eighth graders approached me, and he said, ‘Superintendent Hoffman, I want you to know, we are not just the leaders of tomorrow. We are the leaders of today.’ And I think that is so true. On so many of my school visits, I was so impressed by our students leading the way, and I hear that from them regularly when I meet with them.”

Relentless optimism

“Our work is just getting started,” she concluded. “As you know, we still have so much work to be done. And even though this past year and a half has been unprecedented and challenging in ways I could never have imagined when I was first elected, I’m more committed and more dedicated to this work than ever before. And I continue to have relentless optimism for the future of our public schools. As I’ve seen time and time again, our schools, teachers, and community members are going above and beyond to support our students. And so I’m very proud to be running for reelection for the November 2022 election.”

One of the requirements of clean elections is to collect at least $5 from at least 1500 Arizona voters. You can donate to her campaign here: https://apps.azsos.gov/apps/election/eps/qc/

To sign her petition to get on the ballot visit https://apps.azsos.gov/apps/election/eps/op/

If you are interested in volunteering, visit https://forms.gle/tiK3o2HaFE1Pgqub8