Superintendent of Public Instruction: Frank Riggs wants best teachers, good pay
Name: Frank Riggs
Political party: Republican
Position sought: Superintendent of public instruction
City of residence: Scottsdale
What is the greatest issue Arizona residents face? If elected, how would you address this issue?
Attracting and maintaining the best teachers in Arizona schools is the main issue.
“We have to ensure that our K-12 education funding levels keep pace with student enrollment growth and inflation,” Riggs said, “and then we have to do a comprehensive compensation survey where we benchmark our educators’ compensation, their pay and benefits, against neighboring states.”
If elected, Riggs said he would present the survey to Legislature to use as a baseline to ensure that pay and benefits for Arizona teachers is competitive regionally.
Riggs, 68, said his “proven record of executive, educational and legislative leadership” make him the best candidate for the job. He represented a California district in Congress for three terms in the 1990s.
As an executive of charter school development programs, Riggs said he understands both public school and charter school issues.
What other issues are important to you and your campaign?
There are three main issues: the student achievement gap, skills gap and school safety.
“The achievement gap is evidenced by the fact that on our most recent state standardized testing results, 56 percent of Arizona third graders failed to score proficient in reading, which is the foundation of all learning,” Riggs said.
Because of socio-economic circumstances in Arizona, many students enter school developmentally behind their peers. Riggs wants to “target more resources to school districts and charter schools that serve large numbers of disadvantaged students.”
By disadvantaged students, Riggs means students living in poverty or coming from low-income families, non- or limited-English speaking students, and students with special needs or learning disabilities.
“We have to give more resources to those schools so they can provide those students with the early intervention in the intensive services through individual and small group instruction and close that achievement gap,” he said.
The large number of unfilled jobs in construction trades and computing jobs in Arizona is evidence of the state’s skills gap, he said.
“We have to a better job of aligning our secondary and post secondary education with the real needs and opportunities of the workforce,” Riggs said.
The Army veteran and former police officer said safety is extremely important to him. During his time in law enforcement, he said, he spoke about drug awareness and prevention at schools and later mentored juvenile offenders and at-risk students.
“That helped me realize I wanted to do something in prevention and education,” Riggs said.
What in your past work, political or volunteer experience makes you a better choice to hold this office?
Riggs mentioned his executive, educational and political experiences.
His website says that in the 1990s, he was chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, and that he has served as a public school board president and a charter school president. He sponsored the Charter School Expansion Act of 1998, which provided startup funds for charters.
The role of the superintendent of public instruction has two main responsibilities, he said.
“It’s to lead the Arizona Department of Education and 700-plus dedicated employees in the core mission, which is to implement and minister all state and federal policies, programs and funding for K-12 education,” Riggs said.
The second part of the job is advocacy. Riggs said he’s confident in his ability to advocate for parents, students, educators, as well as the business community and taxpayers.
What is a personal challenge you feel you need to overcome?
“If anything, it might be to dial things back a little bit, to have more grandfather time, but that’s really not in my makeup.”
Please share a quote or advice that you live by.
“The most powerful leadership tool you have is your own personal example.”
Riggs, who played basketball in college and later coached it at a high school, said he tries to live by the quote from UCLA basketball coach John Wooden.
In addition, Riggs said, “the true purpose of life is serving others, and I’m trying to devote my adult life to that and I don’t think there’s any higher purpose or calling than helping every child, every student, realize through a good education, their full potential.”
What app on your phone could you not live without?
Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are his must-have apps right now.
“I have all the apps because that’s a big part of communicating with voters nowadays,” Riggs said. “It’s very different than when I was a congressman back in the ’90s, when none of that existed.”
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
“I want to bring civics back into our schools and put a lot greater emphasis on it, and make sure that every young person graduating high school is not only prepared to live a more healthy, productive life, but they’re prepared to assume their responsibilities and their role as an informed, active and engaged citizen,” Riggs said.
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