Former lawmaker seeks schools post

Ex-Rep. Horne criticizes incumbent

Former state Rep. Tom Horne said Monday that he would revitalize Arizona’s public schools by raising academic standards, a move that turned the once-troubled Paradise Valley School District into one of the best in the state.

A 24-year member of the Paradise Valley School Board, Horne officially entered the race to be Arizona’s next schools chief. He came out swinging during his announcement, criticizing schools Superintendent Jaime Molera for watering down Arizona’s high school graduation exam and, he says, for failing to enforce a law that replaces bilingual education with English immersion.

“I oppose the efforts of the current superintendent to gut the AIMS test by allowing students to do class projects as a way of graduating,” Horne, a Republican, said. “Tens of thousands of parents would be doing projects for their children.”

Tom Collins, Molera’s spokesman, said Horne is missing the facts. Collins also castigated Horne for unnecessarily injecting race into the campaign.

“Is the assumption that because Superintendent Molera is Hispanic that he won’t enforce the law (replacing bilingual education with English immersion)?” Collins asked. “He is implementing the law. I don’t know what the basis for all this is.”

Horne said he plans on raising $300,000, about $175,000 more than Molera can earn as a publicly funded candidate in the GOP primary. Former state Sen. Keith Bee will challenge Horne and Molera in the primary. Sen. Jay Blanchard, a Gilbert Democrat, announced in February. Blanchard is the Arizona State University professor who stunned Jeff Groscost after the former House speaker was embarrassed by the alternative-fuels fiasco. For two months last year, Groscost worked as a paid consultant for Horne. But on Monday, Horne said he had dropped Groscost from his campaign. Mesa Principal Rod Rich is the other Democrat in the race.

Horne is the only privately funded candidate in the race. Rep. Linda Binder, R-Lake Havasu City, said he’s the only man for the job.

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