Arizona Removes Schools’ Social-Emotional Learning Hurdle To Federal Funding

June 8, 2023

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona Department of Education (ADE) removed a social-emotional learning (SEL) hurdle for low-income schools seeking access to federal funding.

ADE slimmed down the Comprehensive Needs Assessment, which schools must complete and submit in order to receive Title I funding designated for low-income schools. Superintendent Tom Horne directed the assessment to remove questions related to SEL, reducing the assessment questions from 168 to 20. 

Horne justified the move in a press release, saying that the SEL questions unnecessarily and disproportionately weighed down the assessment, creating a significant administrative hurdle for schools requiring federal assistance. 

“The previous Comprehensive Needs Assessment was weighed down with absurd measurements regarding Social Emotional Learning (SEL), which many teachers have complained is just a series of games that detract from teaching reading and math,” said Horne. “The prior emphasis on SEL issues meant the report grew to an unmanageable 80 pages with 168 questions. Now there are 20 questions on six pages, all devoted to improving core academics.”

In addition to removing the SEL barrier, ADE is updating its annual Kindergarten Entry Assessment (KEA) program. ADE projected that the pilot program will reduce administrative workload by 80 percent time-wise. 

Horne represents a 180 from his predecessor, Kathy Hoffman, who was an advocate for SEL. 

In other moves signaling a complete turnaround from Hoffman, Horne has also removed the controversial online sexuality-focused chat spaces for minors from the department website, as well as abolished the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Department.

Horne has also been defending the upkeep of universal school choice, the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program. The superintendent defends the program as not only beneficial for parents desiring a more tailored education, but as a cost-saving measure to the state.

This puts the superintendent in conflict with Gov. Katie Hobbs, who claimed universal school choice wasn’t sustainable from a fiscal standpoint. 

Horne is also defending state law banning males from female sports — also running counter to the stance held by Hobbs, as well as the Biden administration.

 In April, the parents of two boys identifying as girls sued the state over the ban. The lawsuit claimed that transgenderism was a “sex-based trait.” 

“There is a medical consensus that a person’s gender identity is not subject to voluntary change and a significant biological foundation,” stated the lawsuit. 

The lawsuit also claimed that all individuals have a gender identity — a perception of one’s gender in addition to their biological reality — and that the only proper treatment for those with gender dysphoria was to allow the full exercise of the dysphoric feelings.

“Under the medical standards of care for the treatment of gender dysphoria in adolescents, the only safe and effective treatment for gender dysphoria is to permit transgender adolescents to live consistent with their gender identity in all aspects of their lives,” stated the lawsuit.

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

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