Education

New Arizona Chief, a Former Teacher, Seeks to Mend Relationships, Pivot Agenda

By Daarel Burnette II — February 25, 2019 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

For the last four years, Arizona’s since-departed state schools chief, Republican Diane Douglas, was at odds with Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, and his appointed state board of education over who’s in charge, who works for who and state standards.

But Douglas lost her primary last year, and Democrat Kathy Hoffman, former special education teacher, was ultimately elected state chief.

In an interview with Education Week, Hoffman described her new priorities for the state education department, including altering the state’s ESSA plan, pushing for more funding for schools, and rebuilding trust between the department and the state’s political leadership.

Hoffman was partly voted in as part of a wave of teacher activism across the state over school funding. In her State of the State speech last month, she complimented Ducey on his efforts to boost teacher pay by 20 percent by 2020, but urged him to think more holistically about school funding.

“Let’s be clear: Student success is not possible without highly qualified teachers in the classroom,” she said during the speech. “We absolutely must advance teacher recruitment and retention, which means competitive pay and benefits across the board.”

Because districts, rather than the state, control teacher pay amounts, some teachers were given as little as 2 percent raises last year, while other teachers were given 18 percent raises. Hoffman said in an interview she’s encouraged that Ducey included in his budget more funding for the board that oversees the state’s expansive charter sector, which she said will lead to more accountability. And she said she appreciates that Ducey included money for more school counselors. The state currently employs one counselor for every 900 students.

But she said the state needs to spend more on special education and providing pay raises for support staff like school bus drivers and office secretaries.

“I’m acutely aware of the diminished resources and the shortages,” the former special education teacher said about the shortage of special education teachers. “There’s also a retention problem because they’re burning out and leaving the field.”

Hoffman said to rebuild trust between the governor, state legislators, and the state education department, she will conduct an audit of the department’s spending habits in order to show that the department is spending its money effectively and efficiently.

As part of that effort, Ducey also included in his budget money to update the software the department uses to figure out how to distribute state resources. The software was installed in the mid-'90s, Hoffman said.

“We’re managing, but we’re worried it could fall apart at any moment,” she said.

Meanwhile, Hoffman said, the department is in the early stages of researching how teachers’ health care costs have risen and looking at ways to amend the state’s accountability plan.

“We’re actively in conversations right now discussing how can we maintain stability and assure that we have a reliable accountability system,” she said.

Hoffman said that her experience as a teacher has helped her explain some of the day-to-day realities for teachers in under-resourced schools.

“I’m very tuned in to the personal experiences and conversations with colleagues with some of the challenges educators face that policy makers are unaware of,” she said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the State EdWatch blog.


Commenting has been disabled on edweek.org effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Teaching Webinar
What’s Next for Teaching and Learning? Key Trends for the New School Year
The past 18 months changed the face of education forever, leaving teachers, students, and families to adapt to unprecedented challenges in teaching and learning. As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Curriculum Webinar
How Data and Digital Curriculum Can Drive Personalized Instruction
As we return from an abnormal year, it’s an educator’s top priority to make sure the lessons learned under adversity positively impact students during the new school year. Digital curriculum has emerged from the pandemic
Content provided by Kiddom
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Leadership for Racial Equity in Schools and Beyond
While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal systemic racial disparities in educational opportunity, there are revelations to which we can and must respond. Through conscientious efforts, using an intentional focus on race, school leaders can
Content provided by Corwin

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education Judge's Temporary Order Allows Iowa Schools to Mandate Masks
A federal judge ordered the state to immediately halt enforcement of a law that prevents school boards from ordering masks to be worn.
4 min read
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds speaks to reporters following a news conference, Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, in West Des Moines, Iowa. Reynolds lashed out at President Joe Biden Thursday after he ordered his education secretary to explore possible legal action against states that have blocked school mask mandates and other public health measures meant to protect students against COVID-19. Reynolds, a Republican, has signed a bill into law that prohibits school officials from requiring masks, raising concerns as delta variant virus cases climb across the state and schools resume classes soon. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Education Hurricane Ida Deals New Blow to Louisiana Schools Struggling to Reopen
The opening of the school year offered teachers a chance to fully assess the pandemic's effects, only to have students forced out again.
8 min read
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021. Louisiana students, who were back in class after a year and a half of COVID-19 disruptions kept many of them at home, are now missing school again after Hurricane Ida. A quarter-million public school students statewide have no school to report to, though top educators are promising a return is, at most, weeks away, not months.
Six-year-old Mary-Louise Lacobon sits on a fallen tree beside the remnants of her family's home destroyed by Hurricane Ida, in Dulac, La., on Sept. 4, 2021.
John Locher/AP
Education Massachusetts National Guard to Help With Busing Students to School
250 guard personnel will be available to serve as drivers of school transport vans, as districts nationwide struggle to hire enough drivers.
1 min read
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass. Mass. Gov. Charlie Baker on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021, activated the state's National Guard to help with busing students to school as districts across the country struggle to hire enough drivers.
Massachusetts National Guard soldiers help with logistics in this Friday, April 17, 2020 file photo, at a food distribution site outside City Hall, in Chelsea, Mass.
Michael Dwyer/AP
Education FDA: ‘Very, Very Hopeful’ COVID Shots Will Be Ready for Younger Kids This Year
Dr. Peter Marks said he is hopeful that COVID-19 vaccinations for 5- to 11-year-olds will be underway by year’s end. Maybe sooner.
4 min read
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021. On Friday, Sept. 10, 2021, Marks urged parents to be patient, saying the agency will rapidly evaluate vaccines for 5- to 11-year-olds as soon as it gets the needed data.
Dr. Peter Marks, director of the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in the Food and Drug Administration, testifies during a Senate health, education, labor, and pensions hearing to examine an update from federal officials on efforts to combat COVID-19 on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 11, 2021.
Jim Lo Scalzo/AP