PHOENIX — The Republican nominee for the state’s top education official is attacking incumbent Kathy Hoffman for her agency’s decision to promote an LGBTQ website and “question teens.”
“I think it’s very harmful,” QChat’s Tom Horne said during a debate Wednesday for the Superintendent of Public Instruction. He said the site, which can be accessed directly from the Arizona Department of Education’s webpage, is designed to undermine parents’ rights to know what their children are watching.
“Kids can go without their parents’ permission,” Horne said.
“They give detailed information about themselves,” he said. “They give detailed information about their sex life or their sexual thoughts.”
And he said there’s even a feature designed to help youngsters keep their parents from knowing what they’re up to: an on-page ‘escape’ button that replaces what’s on screen with a Google page. .
Democrat Kathy Hoffman, seeking re-election, does not dispute what is on the site. But she said Horne was overdoing it.
“The QChat is recommended by the CDC and the national organization Mental Health America as a resource to help support our LGBTQ youth,” she said.
Hoffman said the decision to post a link was made after consulting with a committee of LGBTQ parents, educators and students. She said it was part of her agency’s role to provide resources for these students.
“This is a group of students who all too often face hate in the world and communication that attacks our LGBTQ youth,” said Hoffman, who needs resources for information. And she called Horne’s attacks “political.”
Horne, however, wondered if the students were getting any real help.
He said the moderators are not licensed professionals.
“We don’t know how many of them might be predators,” Horne continued, although the site says the “enablers” are “verified.”
The solution for children who cannot speak with their parents, he said, is to go to “trained and licensed counselors in their schools.”
“It’s outrageous for parents to play no role,” Horne said. “If you are comfortable with your child talking to a stranger about sexual matters without your participation, please vote for Kathy Hoffman.”
For his part, Hoffman called the debate on the website — it also resulted in a lawsuit against Hoffman by Republican activist Peggy McClain — a diversion.
“What I’m focusing on isn’t these culture wars attacking LGBTQ youth,” she said, but rather on issues such as why Arizona doesn’t fund kindergarten or preschool. full-time kindergarten. “If we want our state to move forward, let’s support public education, including making our schools safe and inclusive for all children.”
Hoffman also launched his own attack, saying that if Horne was concerned about child welfare, he would never have accepted support from former state representative David Stringer. The Prescott Republican resigned from the legislature in 2019 after revealing he had been arrested years earlier on various charges, including paying to have sex with an underage boy.
Horne said Stringer’s only involvement in his campaign this year was his decision to erect campaign signs for him at a cost of $1,400. Stringer then posted photos of himself next to those panels.
But when the support first came to light, Horne initially defended Stringer, saying he was innocent of those 1983 charges from Maryland and that there had never been a conviction. It was only later that he walked away from Stringer and reimbursed him for that $1,400 expense.
During the half-hour debate aired on Phoenix PBS affiliate KAET-TV, the couple also found themselves opposed to the Republican-controlled legislature’s decision earlier this year to create a universal system of vouchers for students to attend private lessons. and parochial schools at public expense.
“I think public education dollars should stay in public education,” Hoffman said. She said the new law does not include any accountability, such as standardized tests, to ensure students who attend private schools with taxpayers’ money learn what they need to know.
Horne, however, said he sees vouchers, officially known as empowerment scholarship accounts, as an important equalizer.
“The rich can send their children to any school they want,” he said.
“Poor people should have that ability as well,” Horne said. “And the whole idea of the ESA program is to give people who don’t have as much money the opportunity to do the same things that rich people are doing now.”