November 21, 2017
Contact: Kathy Hoffman

Kathy Hoffman Speaks Up for Children

For immediate release: November 21, 2017

Statement by Kathy Hoffman, Democratic Candidate for Superintendent of Public Instruction

“Our students in Special Education deserve highly trained teachers with the expertise needed to teach children with learning challenges. As a special education teacher, I am alarmed at the implementation of SB1317. This devastating bill ignores the realities of special education and allows any certified teacher to provide specialized instruction for students with disabilities. This issue becomes even more concerning when we consider the fact that in Arizona you no longer need a teaching degree to become a certified teacher. 

It is no secret that our public schools in Arizona are severely under-funded, including Special Education services. Many large school districts stretch their funds as far as possible, and it is not enough. I work in the Peoria School District, which spends $10 million more per year than they receive from the state.

To make matters worse, Special Education teachers are in high demand across the state and it is considered one of the most difficult positions to fill. With a shortage of funding and dwindling numbers of qualified staff due to Arizona’s teacher crisis, no one is surprised that district administrators have lobbied the legislature for more flexibility.

Many students in Special Education face challenges that are best served by teachers with advanced training in working with students with disabilities. For example, one of my former second grade students, “Landon,” was diagnosed with autism and was reading at a kindergarten level. Our special education teacher had her master’s degree in Special Education and years of experience in the field. Her training was not only in reading instruction, but how to work with the social and behavioral challenges associated with autism. She provided training for staff to make sure that Landon was successful in every class. For children like Landon and his family, tremendous damage is done by policies such as SB1317.

Rather than eliminating the need for teacher qualifications, Arizona needs to address the teacher crisis by increasing teacher pay and offering incentives for advanced training. My students with disabilities need us to be their advocates and demand an alternative solution.”

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