State schools

Tom Horne announces candidacy for Superintendent of Public Schools

Former public schools chief Tom Horne is jostling for his old post, rekindling themes of “ethnic chauvinism” and academic rigor that were hallmarks of his previous terms.

“When I was superintendent of public instruction, my focus was on academic achievement,” Horne said at a press conference Thursday announcing his candidacy. “I was a crusader against mediocrity, laziness and political indoctrination as a substitute for academic education.”

“I think a lot of the good work I’ve done has been undone,” Horne, a Republican, told The Arizona Republic. in an interview ahead of his public announcement. “We need to return to an academic orientation.”

He blamed critical race theory, which he said Tucson schools promoted with their ethnic studies curriculum, for the erosion of norms.

As superintendent and later as state attorney general, Horne helped establish and then defend legislation that eliminated the Tucson Unified School District curriculum, which he called “ethnic chauvinism.” The law was later declared unconstitutional.

“When you hear the word ‘equity,’ it means the opposite of merit, withdrawing school admissions, jobs, etc., on the basis of race rather than merit,” he said Thursday. . “In fact, so-called progressives are waging a full-frontal war on merit.”

Horne told The Republic it was time to renew the effort to ban studies that tell students their racial or ethnic identity defines them, rather than their merit. He denied pressing a racist button to stir up passions for an election campaign.

“I’m a radical anti-racist,” Horne said.

He “totally” supports the state Invoice from Representative Michelle Udall which critics say aims to undermine critical race theory. If the bill were to pass and he were to win, Horne told The Republic he would enforce it. Udall, a Republican, is said to be aiming for the superintendent seat for herself.

If the bill doesn’t pass, the teacher licensing process is “another way to weed out” critical race theory, he said Thursday.

“They show young kids that if they’re colored they can’t be successful because of these systems against them, and if they’re not colored they’re oppressors and they should feel guilty, but that’s is not the way to teach children in our schools.”

Horne told The Republic that enforcement of the education programs he champions has been lax since he left the superintendent’s office in 2011, after serving two terms.

He singled out two policies he would guarantee: making passing the statewide achievement test a requirement for high school graduation and opposing efforts to expand bilingual education. .

He’s against it Concurrent Senate Resolution 1020that would return to voters the repeal of the state’s English immersion program and allow for bilingual education.

Horne said bilingual programs hinder students’ ability to learn English.

“It is a terrible injustice for students not to make them proficient in English,” he said.

Horne also said at his press conference that he wants to restore the state’s ability to take over failing schools and also provide scholarships at state universities for students who excel in state assessments.

Although keen to address burning racial issues, Horne declined to comment to The Republic on Proposition 208, a tax on top earners to support education. The state Supreme Court is currently reviewing arguments that the voter-approved measure is unconstitutional.

Former Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne announces his candidacy for the position of Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction at the Phoenix State Capitol on May 13, 2021. Horne also served as Chief of Schools for the Arizona from 2003 to 2011.

He also balked when asked about a measure before voters next year that would allow children brought into the country illegally to pay tuition at Arizona universities. Horne said it was a matter of higher education, although he had previously touted the work he had done as a school superintendent as a member of the State Board of Regents, which governs universities.

After stepping down as school superintendent, Horne was elected state attorney general in 2010. Allegations that he illegally coordinated with a political committee to attack his Democratic rival led to an investigation, who concluded that there was insufficient evidence to press charges.

His 2014 re-election bid was hampered by allegations of campaign finance abuse, including that he used his civil service staff to help run his campaign. In 2019, a county prosecutor investigating the case concluded there was insufficient evidence to convict him. However, Horne paid a $10,000 fine to the state’s Citizens Clean Elections Commission to settle complaints of violating financial laws.

Horne said the results justified it.

Horne rose to elective office in the 1980s, when he joined the Paradise Valley Unified School District Board, where he served for 24 years. He also served four years in the state House of Representatives.

Horne has worked as a private litigator since leaving public office in 2015.

He is the second Republican to announce his candidacy for the position and has said he will run with private funding. Michael Trevillion, administrator of Fowler Elementary School District in the southwest valley, is already in the running.

Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat, announced last month to run for a second term.

Republic journalist Aydali Campa contributed.

Contact the reporter at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.

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