New superintendent elect says she will advocate for public universities

Kathy Hoffman said she plans to stay involved with ABOR in her new position as superintendent of public instruction

Kathy Hoffman was elected as the new superintendent of public instruction for Arizona in the 2018 midterm election, becoming the youngest candidate to be elected to state office.

Superintendent-Elect Democrat Hoffman will serve as an ex-officio member and have voting power on ABOR in addition to her role leading the Arizona Department of Education

Hoffman has said she will support public universities and advocate for lower tuition at the Arizona Board of Regents, a significant contrast from her predecessor.

According to ABOR Executive Director John Arnold, Superintendent Diane Douglas never participated in a vote at ABOR, the governing board for Arizona public universities, even though she had the opportunity. 

“It varies greatly from superintendent to superintendent,” Arnold said. “I’ve been with the board for about three and a half years and Superintendent Douglas did not participate with the regents very much … and never voted on any issues with the regents.”

Hoffman said she will advocate for public universities and stay active on the Board. 

“I will be serving on the Board of Regents and plan on being a very pro-public university advocate,” Hoffman said. “I look forward to being an active member and participant in ABOR and attending meetings as regularly as possible and staying in tune with all of the college issues.”

Hoffman also said that although she is an advocate for lower tuition, she said she would be limited in her abilities to change it.  

“Tuition is a huge issue, and I know that I would not have any direct unilateral control over university tuition," she said. "However, it’s something that we need to be very mindful of when we are implementing any policies at the university level."

Another issue that will separate the new superintendent is her view on Attorney General Mark Brnovich's lawsuit against ABOR over high tuition.

Read more: Arizona Attorney General files appeal in ABOR tuition lawsuit

“I didn’t think that suing them was a good way to address the problem. It didn’t seem like an effective way to start finding solutions,” Hoffman said. “I know that the universities don’t want to keep increasing tuition, but they also are restrained and restricted in the sense that they’re not receiving sufficient funding from the state.”

In contrast to Hoffman, Douglas released a press statement last year supporting Brnovich's decision to sue ABOR for unconstitutionally high tuition.

Patrick Collins, the director of civic engagement for USG Downtown and a senior studying public policy, said he thinks it's very important for Arizona students that the superintendent has a close relationship with ABOR.

“The Superintendent of Public Instruction also serves on the Arizona Board of Education and ABOR, so really what they’re doing specifically for in-state students is that the same superintendent ... is following you from kindergarten all the way through college,” Collins said.

Collins also said the superintendent is able to combine the vision of the K-12 system with the universities at ABOR meetings.

Hoffman said that being the youngest person to be elected to a state office in Arizona gives her perspective on the students that she is serving. 

"I hope that as a younger elected official, that will give me a unique perspective," Hoffman said. "I think I have a different sense of urgency when we're thinking about the issues that are facing our public schools."


Reach the reporter at mzhao49@asu.edu and follow @michelle_zhao23 on Twitter. 

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