When the November elections rolled around, they did more than sweep the GOP majority out of the House. They heralded a host of smaller, statewide races signaling that the voting public had turned hostile to the anti-education policies of U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.
DeVos, who married into the infamous, ongoing, and barely-legal pyramid scheme known as Amway, is a strong proponent of school choice and school voucher programs. Both programs are well-known for diverting precious resources from under-funded K-12 education, and DeVos made a habit of using them and similar tactics to sabotage public education in Michigan, while delivering some of the lowest test scores in the state since 1993.
DeVos was also a well-known Republican fundraiser, which may have played a bigger role in getting her tapped as education secretary than her aptitude for running a school. Senators openly razzed DeVos’ ignorance during her confirmation hearing, with one politician describing her as dumber than “a bag of hammers”. Some of her greatest hits included exchanges like the one advocating the presence of guns in public schools as a defense against grizzlies.
It was enough of a show to get somebody off the couch, and that’s exactly what fledgling Arizona superintendent Kathy Hoffman said happened.
Hoffman, a speech therapist in a Phoenix public school district, told the Washington Post that she couldn’t swallow the agony of DeVos’ performance at her confirmation hearing, so she ran for Arizona’s office of superintendent of public instruction to help counter the woman’s incoming damage.
“It was very clear from many of [DeVos’] statements she had never spent any time in a school,” Hoffman told reporters.
The National Education Association sent out a Nov. 13 press release praising Hoffman’s successful election, along with a host of other progressive, pro-public education personalities who stormed state elections and the U.S. House last week. NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia claimed the rush of public education advocates to office this November was a sign that the voting public was officially done with undermining K-12.
“On election night, students won,” Garcia said in a public statement. “Now, with this mandate, educators can begin to reverse the damage caused by years of the chronic neglect of the public education system in our country and start to make public students and public education a priority again.”
Hoffman rode in on the same election wave that brought Sen-elect Kyrsten Sinema, the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona, and the first Democrat elected to that spot since the pilot episode of X-Files. Like Hoffman, Sinema is a fan of public education. She said she favors reverting to Arizona’s higher tax rates prior to its 2006 tax cuts, so long as the increase funds education.
For Arizona 6th Grade math and science teacher Rebecca Garelli, Hoffman’s arrival is a personal triumph.
“[Teachers] are absolutely thrilled, and the major reason we are thrilled is because — for the first time — we’re actually going to have one of our own, an actual educator, in that [superintendent] position,” Garelli told Grit Post. “She’s not a politician. She’s someone who lives and breathes the classroom and can advocate for our needs. So, for the first time, (educators) have a voice.”
Arizona made clear in many ways that it has had enough of decimating students’ education. After tax cuts suplexed the state budget, underpaid and overworked teachers staged a short walk-out earlier this year that concluded with a 20 percent teacher raise by 2020 and an additional $371 million to education funding over the next five years. Garelli is a leader at Arizona Educators United, a coalition of teachers, education support professionals, administrators, and K-12 advocates that participated in the strike.