‘We’re worried about our kids’: GOP fights to reclaim Arizona school head seat

The Republican primary has ranged from a lifelong state superintendent to attorney general, a real estate business owner who now tops the GOP primary’s latest poll, and a Maricopa County state representative who married into the political dynasty of the Udall family.

He has drawn support from far-right figures including former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Rep. Paul Gosari, And aspiring school heads each paint classrooms with hypersexualized lessons and critical race theory that harm children who regroup after months of mask mandates and school closures.

“Previously, you couldn’t pay someone enough to go to a board of education meeting—now all of a sudden, they’re taking the fight to school districts,” says Mike Noble of OH Predictive Insights, a nonpartisan Arizona pollster who tracked Has stated in an interview that Republican voters supported the candidates throughout the campaign.

“Critical race theory has really taken hold, especially with those on the right, so this is their battleground for the superintendent of public instruction,” Noble said. “That’s what really resonates with the Republican base.”

Critical race theory is an analytical exercise in examining how race and racism permeate American law and society. Most public school officials across the country say they do not teach the doctrine, even in districts where lawmakers are seeking to ban it.

Hoffman, a speech pathologist who first took over as a political novice in a surprise 2018 victory, believes she can win with a message that appeals to independent voters – who have won the election in the past. Years made up nearly a third of Arizona voters – and moderate Republicans were ready to cross party lines. She is trying to build on the message being urged by national liberal education groups to help Democrats gain ground on education policy.

“It can be frustrating for me to see this divisive language that really creates a rift between our schools and families,” Hoffman said of her Republican opponents in an interview. She is running unopposed in her party primary.

“They want to lead our school system. Yet they are attacking it, and this very negative rhetoric of mistrust around our public schools, at a time when our schools need our support more than ever,” she said.

While Republicans are hoping to challenge Hoffman in November, they are concerned about classroom lessons governing conservative Arizona education policy. Ducey and the state’s GOP-controlled legislature have implemented a multitude of education laws during the pandemic, including a universal school voucher program, and on sports participation and gender-affirming surgical procedures for LGBTQ youth, despite protests from Hoffman. There is restriction.

State superintendents technically play an administrative role in distributing school funding and carrying out laws and policies, although they also hold influential positions on state education boards and state university boards of regents.

Democrats are struggling to fix their grip on school-based politics even nationally after Youngkin won office last year with the help of swing-voting parents, frustrated by the consequences of Covid-19’s school lockdowns.

Liberal Advocacy Group research shows the party’s handling of education has lost voters and parents’ trust in dozens of congressional battleground states, including Arizona. And the polls point to the disappointment that both major parties – but Democrats in particular – focus more on race and gender than on helping students get back on track in the classroom.

“The political high ground in the education debate will be seen as a focus on advancing the fundamentals of education,” 1,758 pollsters from Hart Research Associates wrote in a June 21 memo to the American Federation of Teachers’ Labor Group. After interviewing potential voters. Arizona and six other battlefields. “The side seen as politicizing education would be at a distinct disadvantage.”

A trio of Republicans listed in Tuesday’s primary ballot agree they want to remove politics from education and bring schools back to basics, even as they appeal to party-line voters with a culture-based appeal. We do.

“It’s a terrible, terrible direction in which the country has gone,” said Tom Horn, a prominent Hoffman rival who seeks a political return after a stint as state attorney general and school superintendent.

Leading the race in fundraising, thanks largely to $550,000 in personal loans for his own campaign, Horn has promoted their previous attempts to ban local Mexican-American study programs – later deemed unconstitutional by a federal judge – as a pillar of his campaign, despite past records alleged campaign finance violations And a FBI investigation reported,

“I want to turn the focus back on academics,” Horn said in an interview. “I want to get rid of distractions that, in addition to distracting academics, are inherently evil and immoral and emphasize race and sexuality rather than teaching children how to treat each other.”

Real estate broker Shayri Sapir said she pulled her kids out of her public school and enrolled in a private institution when Covid-19 pushed classes into distance learning, and she went up in local elections this summer .

“I’ve been speaking to various Republican groups literally all over the state. The message from them is exactly what I’m talking about: issues of sexualization, beauty, critical race theory, a lack of academic excellence, and of course, undercover ,” Sapir said in an interview.

“It’s not just the conservative mother, and it’s not her anger. It’s her concern. We worry about our kids,” Sapir said. “I am her extension. I am the voice that we do not have. I am the voice we should have.”

State Representative Michelle Udall, chair of the Arizona House Education Committee and a licensed math teacher, supported legislation that would have allowed state regulators and civil courts to revoke teacher licenses and fine schools $5,000 if “any type of defect or Decisions based on race, ethnicity or gender” are part of their curriculum.

“You can teach facts, teach what happened, and you can help students understand the terrible things people have gone through and the terrible consequences of racism,” Udall said in an interview. “Students need to know that history. Those are the skills and knowledge they need to succeed. While Critical Race Theory and Gender Identity Stuff, they are not.

Conservatives are looking at a very tight race. An OH Predictive Insights poll of nearly 500 potential GOP primary voters from July 27 showed Horn and Sapir ranked first with the support of 21 percent of respondents. Udal finished third with 14 per cent. Forty percent of voters said they were undecided. The survey had an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Still, it’s unclear whether Arizona general election voters will turn to a Republican superintendent candidate who has focused on cultivating the party’s most conservative wing.

A May poll of 500 prospective state voters commissioned by the Education Forward Arizona organization concluded that less than half of respondents support banning critical race theory or restricting discussion of gender identity and sexual orientation during sex education. did.

This leaves Hoffman, who has support from the Human Rights Campaign and Planned Parenthood, to save his campaign funds and prepare for the fall.

“We have such a large number of independent voters and there is also a portion of Democrats and Republicans who would cross party lines for a candidate,” Hoffman said.

“I hope to be a model,” she said. “We’ll find out in November.”

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