Ariz. schools chief Kathy Hoffman vows to fight for educator pay, school funding
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman speaks to the crowd after taking the oath of office in Phoenix on Jan. 7, 2019. Brian Snyder, Arizona Republic
New Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman vowed to fight for "competitive" educator pay Monday during a public inauguration ceremony at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix.
Hoffman, a speech therapist for a public school district, took the oath of office standing onstage next to her husband. She placed her hand on a children's book entitled "Too Many Moose."
She later told 12News the book is sentimental because it's her students' favorite book, which she uses to help them practice phonics skills.
After her swearing in, Hoffman delivered a speech about the importance of investing in education.
"Imagine if we elevated the voices of our teachers and let educators lead," Hoffman said, evoking a common line from her campaign stump speech.
"Imagine if we celebrated the diversity within our state and within our schools and treated multilingualism as an asset. Imagine if we worked collaboratively and used research to guide us toward the best (policies for students).
"Well, guess what? I'm done saying, 'Imagine if.' I am here to say, 'Let's get to work.'"
Hoffman, a Democrat, replaces outgoing Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas, a Republican whose tenure was marked by turbulence. Douglas lost her party's primary to Frank Riggs, whom Hoffman defeated in November.
Hoffman: Schools teach more than reading, test taking
Hoffman told a story about one of her former students, a first-grader named Mason, who has brain damage from seizures and is unable to speak.
Hoffman said when she met Mason at the start of the school year, he communicated with teachers and his parents using a series of five picture cards that said things like whether he wanted to eat or go to the bathroom.
She said she was able to teach him to use an iPad to communicate, and by the end of the year, he could communicate all of his friends' names and tell his mother, "I love you."
"Our public schools go beyond just teaching our students to read or to take a test," Hoffman said. "They help our children to learn even other important skills, including music, science, art, technology, so that our students are not just productive, but well-rounded members of our community."
Hoffman said she will push the state to provide competitive pay to all educators, including support staff. She said she will also launch an audit of the Department of Education to ensure every dollar is spent wisely.
She said the state also must explore new ways to end its teacher shortage, including paid maternity and paternity leave for educators.
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