By Daniel Stefanski |
Democrats may have taken over most of the major statewide offices in Arizona in January 2023, but there’s one newly elected Republican officer who’s re-emerged on the scene and is ready to keep his promises to voters.
Tom Horne, Arizona’s Superintendent of Public Instruction, previously served in the office from 2003 to 2011, returning this year after defeating incumbent Kathy Hoffman by 9,100 votes. Last week, Horne gave a State of Education speech before the Arizona House Education Committee.
In Superintendent Horne’s presentation of the Strategic Initiatives for the State of Education, which was reviewed by AZ Free News, he laid out the future for his agency and the mission of his office. Superintendent Horne wants to “help and improve failing schools,” reinstate “test to graduate” policies, “teach curriculum bell to bell,” “regain structure in classrooms,” and “empower parents.”
Soon after the address to the committee, the Arizona Department of Education’s Twitter account posted, “Our administration has an ambitious agenda to fix our schools. We’ll prioritize education over distractions, create education improvement teams to support our schools, and bring back discipline to our classrooms so our teachers and students feel comfortable in their classrooms.” The account also thanked the Education Committee for inviting Superintendent Horne to present, stating, “The situation is grim with 2/3 of students below achievement levels. Our schools must teach our kids how to learn and not how to feel.”
When asked by AZ Free News about his thoughts on the address before the legislative committee, Superintendent Horne replied, “The Legislature appeared receptive to the Department’s mission of service to the schools and supportive of our priority to raise educational outcomes.”
Furthermore, when AZ Free News inquired about how he expects to work with legislators to accomplish his goals for this year – and throughout the duration of his term in office, Superintendent Horne said, “We all want schools where students can excel and feel safe.”
Not everyone was receptive toward Superintendent Horne’s presentation. Rep. Nancy Gutierrez, a member of the House Education Committee, tweeted, “I was quite concerned while listening that Social Emotional Learning was portrayed as CRT, that the focus will be on suspending and expelling students and that we will be relying on biased testing to determine success. This is not the best way to move forward.”
Superintendent Horne’s administration has already achieved significant accomplishments in its first month – especially with the Empowerment Scholarship Account (ESA) Program under the leadership of Christine Accurso, the Executive Director. As of February 1, the Arizona ESA program had 46,545 children enrolled. The program also averages approximately 900 phone calls and 140 new applications per day, per Accurso’s last report to parents. Accurso has moved quickly to bring staffing levels up to the Arizona Legislature’s expectations and to ensure that the program is following the legislators’ intent in every area.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.