For some, being elected to lead a department as massive and complex as the Department of Education would be a daunting task. However, leading this department as an educator with a dedication and passion for public education is precisely why I ran.
The position of state superintendent of public instruction holds a unique place in the Arizona political and educational landscape. It is both a role of advocacy, careful management and service to our students and schools. As state superintendent, my vision for our public schools will remain true to the spirit of my campaign. My Department of Education will value the voices of underserved communities such as our rural schools, ensure public schools across the state have equitable funding, and commit to serving the unique needs of our students and educators.
This vision has already been put in place with two recent hires: Chief of Staff John Carruth and Communications Director Richie Taylor. Carruth spent over 20 years working at the Vail School District as a special education teacher, special education director and finally as the assistant superintendent for the past 15 years. Richie Taylor is a native of Safford and was greatly influenced by his childhood teachers, including the current Graham County superintendent, Donna McGaughey.
Together, we bring over 30 years of education experience with a unique focus on rural and special education. With the help of John and Richie, the Department of Education will move toward being an agency of service for all our schools whether they be in Douglas or Flagstaff. We are also assembling a team of experts to help plan our transition and guide the early work of the department in the coming months.
For too long, our schools have not had an assertive, positive voice for the solutions and practices that work for our students and teachers. I’ll lend my voice and the weight of my position to push for policies that provide sustainable funding for our schools and reduce barriers to access for our students, like removing the burden of the four-hour English-only block. I’ve also begun the critical work of collaborating with our elected officials to prioritize charter school reform to eliminate corruption. With the help of diverse partners, we can start to rebuild Arizona’s public education system and better serve our students and communities.
Teachers have also lacked a staunch ally at the Capitol. Our teachers work tirelessly to serve every student, yet on average they receive one the lowest salaries in the nation and have seen their workloads become increasingly demanding while resources vanish due to budget cuts. In my role, I will be a much-needed champion for teachers by advocating for policies that provide all educators a living wage, advanced training and improved benefits like paid maternity and paternity leave. We cannot put our students first if we continually put our teachers last. I am committed to treating all educators — meaning everyone from our school psychologists, paraprofessionals, counselors, to our general education teachers — with the utmost respect.
Our schools need a leader who will prioritize service to our children, schools, and communities — and as state superintendent, that’s precisely what I’ll do. It will take collaboration and legislative support across party lines. However, this election showed that communities across Arizona value public education and there is bipartisan support for pro-public education policies.
I look forward to what we can accomplish together when we put aside party politics and get to work supporting our students, teachers and families alike.
— Kathy Hoffman is state superintendent of