Superintendent of Public Instruction: Kathy Hoffman would address teacher shortage, bilingual programs

Name: Kathy Hoffman
Political party: Democrat
Position sought: Superintendent of public instruction
City of residence: Glendale
Occupation: Former speech therapist on the campaign full-time

What is the greatest issue Arizona residents face? If elected, how would you address this issue?

The teacher shortage is the biggest education issue in Arizona, Hoffman said.

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“We still have over 1,500 positions that are unfilled,” she said. “That directly impacts communities and families.”

Because of the shortage, Hoffman said Arizona has larger classroom sizes and more long-term substitute teachers with less training in its classrooms, which leads to a greater workload for teachers.

“It can lead to burnout,” Hoffman said. “It just creates a vicious cycle.”

If elected, Hoffman, 32, would push for competitive pay and better health care benefits for Arizona teachers.

“As teacher pay has stayed stagnant in Arizona, the cost of health care has gone up and teachers are receiving worse health care package benefits,” she said.

Hoffman also plans to attract new teachers to the profession by offering career technical education earlier. This would include teaching programs at high schools for students to build interest in teaching.

What other issues are important to you and your campaign?

“Our high school graduation rates are just around 80 percent,” Hoffman said. “While it’s not desolate, there is still room for improvement.”

Hoffman said she would address this by focusing on English-language learners, or ELL students, for whom graduation rates are much lower.

“Arizona has the lowest high school graduation rate of ELL students in the country, at 18 percent,” she said.

Raising Arizona’s graduation rate will require major changes, Hoffman said.

“We need to completely reform the model we’re using and the policies surrounding bilingual education in Arizona.”

What in your past work, political or volunteer experience makes you a better choice to hold this office?

“For me, it’s all about being a career educator,” said Hoffman, who worked as a speech therapist in public schools for five years before resigning at the end of the last school year to campaign full-time. She has a master’s degree in speech, language and hearing sciences from the University of Arizona.

“The real experts of education are educators,” she said.

Many people Arizonans have elected superintendent of public schools lacked classroom experience, she said, adding, “I’ve worked with some of our most marginalized and vulnerable students.”

Hoffman also said she has had many conversations with parents, teachers and the community about what needs to change in Arizona’s public schools.

What is a personal challenge you feel you need to overcome?

Hoffman said her biggest personal challenge would come after her election as superintendent. Her vision requires the support of the governor and the Legislature to become real, and she hopes to build a rapport with them and find areas in which to agree.

“Education is an issue that everyone cares about,” Hoffman said. “We need to work together to find solutions we can all get on board with.”

Please share a quote or advice that you live by.

“The beauty of being an educator is that every day you’re making a difference in children’s lives.”

What app on your phone could you not live without?

Other than texting, the most important app on her phone is Google Maps.

“I could not get anywhere without Google Maps,” Hoffman said.

Is there anything you would like to add?

“As an educator, I see what our students are capable of when they have the resources to succeed, and I strongly support expanding music, science, art and technology curricula in our schools so that our students are not just productive but are well-rounded.”

Campaign website for Kathy Hoffman.

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