By Kathy Hoffman
As a teacher and a candidate, I’ve visited rural schools around the state. From those travels, I’ve noticed one common theme around the state: our rural schools do not have a strong advocate at the Department of Education. From empty promises to policies not designed to support rural students, our rural education leaders are tired of elected officials failing to meet the needs of their children.
Every school in Arizona has unique challenges, and our rural schools are no different. One of the most significant issues that must be addressed is transportation. Students in rural communities frequently commute over an hour to their school, which puts thousands of miles onto buses and the cost of gas is higher than in urban communities. Superintendents across the state have shared with me that their elected officials have not demonstrated an understanding of the vast and costly obstacles with their transportation needs.
Transportation is only one example of the differences between rural and urban schools. The interests and values of the students and their families vary from school to school and from community to community. When I attended the Arizona Rural Schools Conference, a principal shared that he uses the Cowboy Code of Conduct to influence positive behaviors in his students. Across the school, teachers used sayings from the Code including, “Always finish what you start,” and students were rewarded for work completion with cowboy belt buckles. This is a perfect example of how one size does not fit all – different schools need different tools. In recognition of the varied school cultures and environments, especially in rural Arizona, I am sensitive to the impact of statewide policies on rural schools and communities.
As State Superintendent, I will continue to travel across Arizona to better understand how the Department of Education can serve all communities. My priority will be to work for all schools, not just those in Phoenix. Educators from every corner of the state should be invited to participate in education policies, and I will be looking to rural education leaders for their expertise and guidance. It is clear to me that although we live in different parts of the state, we share the same goals of providing high-quality public education for our students. To give rural schools a strong voice in the Department of Education, I need your support in this year’s election. Please vote Kathy Hoffman for State Superintendent by November 6th.