Arizona Department of Education Purges ‘Woke’ From Its Midst

January 31, 2023

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) is eliminating social-emotional learning and other “woke” initiatives from its administration, with an eye on barring it from schools entirely.

ADE Superintendent Tom Horne explained his vision during an interview with “The Conservative Circus” on Thursday. Horne said that leftist agenda initiatives took away critical funding from teacher salaries.

“The money should be going to teachers’ salaries, and not, as we say, ‘woke’ ideology,” said Horne. 

Horne said that social-emotional learning, sexualized curriculum, and critical race theory (CRT) had nothing to do with academics. 

“The nonsense is producing the low test scores. If we focus on academics, we can bring the test scores back up,” said Horne.

Arizona students have struggled to perform well in tests over the last few years: a sharp downturn in achievement from forced school closures amid the pandemic following years of general decline.

Last October, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) revealed in a report that students suffered severe learning losses in math and nominal losses in reading due to the COVID-19 shutdowns. In September, ADE revealed that a majority of Arizona students were still failing the statewide assessment.

In response to critics alleging Horne operated out of racial animosity, Horne disavowed claims of racism and noted that he’s been a longtime supporter of Civil Rights. Horne participated in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington in 1963.

Horne’s first moves in office included purging ADE of initiatives by former Superintendent Kathy Hoffman: sex chat rooms for minors, such as “Queer Chat”; the division on Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI); and references to social-emotional learning.

“The word ‘equity’ in common-use of the English language is a very positive word,” said Horne. “But what they’ve done with Critical Race Theory is they’ve made it into a negative word: it is the desire that we have equal outcomes by racial groups which doesn’t recognize individual merit. I believe in individual merit.”

The Office of EDI contained the Office of Indian Education (OIE), which administered federal and state program resources for Native American students; 

As part of ADE’s annual conference that began on Wednesday and concludes Friday, ADE eliminated presentations on social-emotional learning and racial trauma, as well as diversity and equity.

ADE spokesman Doug Nick said that these events didn’t address core academic issues: namely reading, science, and math. Nick said that teachers tell ADE that they oppose prioritizing SEL in the classroom.

“[Teachers] disagree with being compelled to use social-emotional learning curriculum instead of teaching core subjects,” said Nick. 

During his campaign, Horne declared “war” on CRT and other “woke” curriculum championed by former Superintendent Kathy Hoffman.

“[CRT is] venal racism, and its war against merit and achievement, which if not stopped, will make us a third world country,” stated Horne. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to

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