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Huppenthal elected as Arizona schools chief

John Huppenthal (file photo)

John Huppenthal (file photo)

Longtime Arizona lawmaker John Huppenthal has wanted to revamp the state’s school system for years. Now, he’ll get the chance.

The 56-year-old Republican beat Democratic opponent Penny Kotterman in the Nov. 2 general election to become the new state superintendent of public instruction.

The schools chief is responsible for running the Arizona Department of Education – a branch of state government that provides services to almost 2,000 district and charter schools serving more than 1 million students.

Huppenthal, who has been an Arizona legislator since 1993 and a state senator since 2005, said he’s humbled to be elected to the superintendent’s post and can’t wait to get started.

He’s chairman of the state Senate Education Committee and describes himself as one of Arizona’s leading education policy experts and school reformers.

“My campaign was about ideas, like school choices and improved literacy rates,” Huppenthal said. “From the voter’s reception, we sold those ideas.”

According to Huppenthal, 40 percent of Arizona students lack basic reading skills as of fourth grade. He plans to empower parents with school choices and insist that every child learns English “in a disciplined, organized classroom with a well-supported teacher.

Huppenthal also wants to put a renewed emphasis on math and science skills and “get improved results with high standards and an accountability system across all of Arizona.”

Kotterman, who began teaching in 1978, spent six years as president of the Arizona Education Association – the state’s largest teachers union. She currently is director of new programs and policy at the Arizona K-12 Center.

Kotterman, 53, did not return calls for comment on election night.

“I can’t say enough good things about my opponent,” Huppenthal said. “Penny and I have worked together for 20 years and I look forward to working with her in the future.”

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