Supt. Horne: AZ’s Self-Anointed Culture Warrior

Supt. Horne: AZ’s Self-Anointed Culture Warrior

Newly-elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is using the Arizona Department of Education to wage a manufactured culture war that aims to discredit public education and drive teachers and staff away from classrooms.

Newly-elected Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne is using the Arizona Department of Education to wage a manufactured culture war that aims to discredit public education and drive teachers and staff away from classrooms. Horne is taking his marching orders from out-of-state special interests like the Devos-Funded American Federation for Children and the astroturf hate group Moms For Liberty. These groups have no interest in supporting public education; their goal is to prop up universal voucher programs and private religious schools to dismantle public education.

It’s Hard to Lead AZ Schools with Such Antiquated Views

The purpose of public education is to holistically serve the whole child and their community — but Tom Horne has a backward, antiquated view of education that ignores the full needs of our students. Modern students need robust mental health services, truthful and accurate teaching of history and science, social-emotional learning (SEL), and instruction in the arts and 21st-century skills. Horne’s tunnel-vision focus on academic basics (reading, writing, and math) and draconian discipline excludes every Arizona student from the robust and individualized education they deserve.

Culture Shock: The New ADE

In one of his first acts in office, Superintendent Horne ordered that resources supporting LGBTQ students, educators, and families be wiped from the Arizona Department of Education website. He then disbanded the agency’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion team. In a complete reversal from Kathy Hoffman’s administration, Superintendent Tom Horne canceled conferences discussing social-emotional learning and removed SEL resources from the ADE website. Ironically, in the following weeks, the Department of Education introduced a new “character education” program that is essentially identical to social-emotional learning. Horne appears to be pushing for the censorship of topics he does not even fully understand in an attempt to appease the radical supporters who got him elected.

The Department’s Twitter page is a grab-bag of nonsense posts about “CRT,” advertisements for Superintendent Horne’s appearances on Fox News, extremist Daily Wire articles, and attacks on public school boards and principals. In a dramatic departure from the previous administration, Horne’s ADE insists on inserting themselves into issues that, by state law, can only be resolved at the local level. This is nothing new for Mr. Horne. Under his previous tenure as Superintendent of Public Schools, Horne led the charge to pass a law banning the Tucson Unified School District’s Ethnic Studies program in 2010, partially because he felt the students had been rude to him. Seven years later, a Federal Court judge overturned the law, finding that “both enactment and enforcement [of the law] were motivated by racial animus.”

One of Horne’s “signature” achievements is the launch of a hotline for parents to report lessons they deem inappropriate, “such as those that focus on race or ethnicity… promoting gender ideology, social-emotional learning, or inappropriate sexual content.” The hotline is part of a larger attack on so-called “woke” education pushed by out-of-state special interest groups. In fact, the Department’s “Critical Race Theory and Social Emotional Learning Explained” page uses language essentially copy-pasted talking points used by Moms for Liberty. 

The hotline is entirely unnecessary, and is another cudgel Horne is using to attack teachers. School districts already have a well-defined process for handling parent complaints through elected school boards, and the State Board of Education hosts the Educator Discipline Unit for investigating serious allegations of misconduct. So why is Tom Horne dedicating scarce taxpayer resources to this? The title alone —  “ESA Empower Hotline” — reveals the connection. The hotline isn’t about “empowering parents;” it’s about creating false narratives about public schools to drive applications to the ESA voucher program.

Horne’s Goal? Driving Parents Into ESA Vouchers

Horne’s constant attacks and accusations are a transparent attempt to further the privatization of our public schools. While resources are siphoned away from the 92% of families who choose public schools in favor of wealthy families in voucher schools, Horne’s Department of Education obviously has other priorities. From crusading against SEL to launching an “Empower Hotline” to report on teachers, Horne’s ADE is focused on everything but the real issues facing our public schools. The reason is clear: Horne is amplifying unfounded concerns to drive parents into private schools. 

Enough is enough. Call the ADE’s Hotline to report your concerns about attacks on teachers and the privatization of Arizona public schools! Use our One-Click Call Tool here:

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