Tom Horne returns as AZ School Superintendent

KGUN 9 Tucson News
KGUN 9 Tucson News

A familiar face is returning as Arizona School Superintendent. Voters returned Tom Horne to the job he held from 2003 to 2011. Horne says he’ll work to boost student achievement, and also fight teaching he sees as divisive.

11 years after he finished his term as State school superintendent. Tom Horne is back. Voters just chose him for a new four-year term. During his last go-round, he had a lot of conflict with TUSD last time around and there are signs that may happen again.

Horne says after serving as Arizona’s Attorney General, then being out of elected office he felt the need to run for Superintendent of Public Instruction again.

“You know, I've been reading a lot of the troubles in the schools through reduced test scores and the diversions under the things that detract from academics. And I could either sit at home and read about it and have smoke come out my ears or I could go out and do something about it, and that's what I decided to do.”

Tom Horne says he wants to raise student achievement and revive a test high school seniors would have to pass to graduate.

He also opposes what has been called Critical Race Theory, or CRT. It’s sometimes defined as teaching that the government made discrimination official through laws like segregation.

He says there are teachers in many Arizona districts, including TUSD, pledged to teach CRT though it may not carry that label.

He defines CRT as, “Causing resentment against other races, dividing kids by race, promoting what I call ethnic chauvinism. The important thing about any individual is what does that person know? What can they do? What is their character? What is their appreciation of beauty, not what race they were born into.”

In his previous time as school superintendent, Horne said he saw that sort of teaching in TUSD’s Mexican American Studies program. It caused outrage when he, and his successor as Arizona School Superintendent, forced the district to shut down the program.

Margaret Chaney is President of the Tucson Education Association, the union that represents TUSD teachers.

She says, “The topic doesn't exist in TUSD. What exists when we talk about discrimination we're talking about Jim Crow laws. We're talking about the Civil Rights Movement. We're talking about slavery. We're talking about the Indian Removal Acts, we're talking I mean, you go on and on and on discrimination did and still does exist, unfortunately. Which is one of the reasons that you know, it's part of the curriculum, it's part of the state curriculum, state standards.”

Horne is talking about sending improvement teams into schools to improve test scores. Cheney certainly supports raising scores but says improvement teams did not help and traumatized schools when Horne used them before.

She says scores declined because school budgets have left schools starved for resources.

She says if Horne convinces lawmakers to require passing a test for high school graduation, that will add to the strain on schools if students who passed their courses fail the graduation test and are held back.

Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9 . With more than 30 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter .

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