Appointed schools chief to run for post

Arizona schools Superintendent Jaime Molera, appointed by Gov. Jane Hull in May, wants to keep the job for four more years.

His slogan: “My work here is not finished.”

Joined by Hull and Arizona Congressman Jeff Flake, Molera said he wants to steer Arizona’s public schools through a maze of challenges, including improving the state’s dropout rate, which ranks among the worst in the nation. He also said he wants to defuse the highly politicized environment swirling around public education.

“For years, it’s been an us vs. them mentality in public education,” said Molera, 33. “We have to start working for kids instead of using them as a political football.”

As a top aide to Hull, Molera spearheaded a $2 million campaign for an education sales tax that Arizona voters approved in 2000. He helped push the ballot measure through a skeptical Legislature.

Molera will have plenty of competition for the post.

Former state Sen. Keith Bee and former state Rep. Tom Horne will challenge Molera in the GOP primary. Horne is raising his own money to finance his campaign and was quick to criticize Molera’s record.

“I want to improve the AIMS test and promote excellence in education, he wants to gut it and accept mediocrity,” Horne said. “I supported the initiative to replace bilingual education with English immersion, and he opposed it.”

Sen. Jay Blanchard, a Gilbert Democrat, will probably announce next week, setting up a contrast of styles in a possible general election matchup. Blanchard is the Arizona State University professor who stunned Jeff Groscost after the former House speaker was embarrassed by the alternative-fuels fiasco. Mesa Principal Rod Rich is another Democrat in the race.

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