Molera, 5 Others Race For Education Chief

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Education in Arizona has been under a microscope for several years now. So, whoever takes the reins as State Superintendent of Public Instruction will have an inordinate amount of attention placed on the effectiveness of their policies and actions.

The state superintendent supervises the public elementary and high school system; serves on the Board of Education, which sets policy for the school systems of the state; and oversees the Department of Education, which executes the policies of the state board.

The state superintendent's job has a four-year term.

Keith Bee

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 36

Years in Arizona: 36

Residence: Tucson

Bee, a former member of the Legislature, including service on the Senate Education Committee, has made putting the state's education funds back into the classroom his priority.

Among the other issues of importance to him:

Accountability for the financial investment being made in schools;

Taking steps to implement a valid and reliable testing program that validates student performance;

Letting the power and responsibility for schools and public education rest with local boards and educators; and

Providing safe schools to create a positive learning environment with zero tolerance for violence.

The strengths he will bring to the job are the ability to listen; the experience he gained while serving in the Legislature; and the ability to pull people together to work effectively toward shared goals.

Jay Blanchard

Party affiliation: Democrat

Age: 55

Years in Arizona: 31

Residence: Gilbert

For the last 30 years, Dr. Jay Blanchard has taught in classrooms around the state including teaching Arizona's teachers as a professor at Arizona State University.

"From Peach Springs to Tuba City, from Yuma to Willcox, from Phoenix to Tucson, I have been in Arizona classrooms working with teachers and students," said Blanchard. "I know Arizona education from the classroom, to the boardroom, to the legislature."

Blanchard, who has a Ph.D. in reading education, was elected to the state senate in 2000. He has written widely on education and his books, articles and speeches have focused on teaching and learning.

The candidate emphasizes the need to improve learning, enhance school discipline, increase parent involvement, and reduce the dropout rate.

"I consider our local school boards as part of the solution not part of the problem," Blanchard said. "The preemption of local school board control by state government is not acceptable. I believe local school boards understand the educational challenges of their communities better than the Arizona Department of Education."

Blanchard also believes that parents must play a major role in the education of their children.

"Successful schools and excellence in achievement come from dedicated teachers, motivated students and parents who support both," he said.

Blanchard's wife, Nikki, is an assistant superintendent with the Gilbert Unified School District. They have three grown children and one grandson.

For more information, call (480) 813-6617 or go to www. blanchard2002.com.

Tom Horne

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 57

Years in Arizona: 31

Residence: Phoenix

Horne, an attorney and former legislator, wants to raise academic standards; bring discipline to the classroom; and financial discipline to the budget.

Horne has served for 24 years on the Paradise Valley School District's board of governors, and is now in his 10th year as its president.

His goals for Arizona's schools:

Schools are about academics. The state superintendent must constantly emphasize academic excellence in schools.

Schools should teach character. He will bring to the state level a highly successful character education program pioneered under his leadership in the Paradise Valley School District, teaching personal responsibility, citizenship, respect, integrity, care for others and peaceful resolution of conflicts.

Schools must emphasize discipline. He has said students interfering in the learning of others will not be tolerated.

Schools must be efficient. He has said he will work to limit administrative costs to no more than 5 percent of any school district's budget. In the Paradise Valley School District those costs are only 2.7 percent of the budget.

All students must read by third grade. He has said special attention will be given to children who need it, but will insist that if they can't read by the third grade, they not be promoted to the fourth grade.

Jaime Molera

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 34

Years in Arizona: 34

Residence: Phoenix

Appointed to the post of superintendent of public instruction by Gov. Jane Dee Hull in 2001, the Republican candidate currently oversees an agency that has 400 employees and a budget of roughly $3 billion.

Molera believes in promoting education policy that is grounded in sound research and is student and family focused. He also believes that the needs of individuals and communities outweigh those of bureaucratic institutions.

"I am committed to education, both as the foundation for the future of the state and the future of our own children," Molera said.

His major accomplishments include leading the efforts to pass a historic education-funding program, known as Education 2000/Prop 301, and growth-management legislation, known as Growing Smarter Plus.

In early 2002, Molera successfully secured passage of his plan for meaningful school accountability, known as Arizona LEARNS. This program helps parents, students and the public know exactly how schools perform.

His legislation to support early literacy, known as Arizona READS, overwhelmingly passed the Legislature as well.

"This program ensures that students develop reading skills early the key to addressing problematic issues, such as Arizona's dropout rate," said Molera.

Prior to becoming state superintendent, Molera served as Governor Hull's policy advisor for legislative affairs. In this capacity, he managed all legislative activities, including development of the governor's legislative agenda and lobbying efforts.

Born and raised in Nogales, Arizona, Molera attended Arizona State University and received his degree in communications. He resides with his wife and daughter in Phoenix.

For more information, call (602) 920-4404.

Rod Rich

Party affiliation: Democrat

Age: 53

Years in Arizona: 6

Residence: Chandler

Rich has been in education for 25 years. He is currently principal of Stapley Junior High School in Mesa.

His priorities as state superintendent are:

Make Arizona public schools the best they can be.

Eliminate the AIMS test as a high stakes graduation requirement, but still use it to measure students' competency with curriculum materials.

Aggressively work to end the teacher shortage.

Develop special programs for children with exceptional needs.

"We need to restore pride in and respect for teachers. The public needs to trust and respect them. To restore this pride and respect, the state superintendent needs to find the positives in schools, not spend time in the Legislature.

"We need to make public schools the schools of choice," Rich said.

He said the strength he would bring to the office is his experience as an educator.

"My job is to help children find their gift, polish that gift and share it with the world. We have denied kids the opportunity to find their gifts with so much focus on reading, writing and math," Rich said.

Summing up why he is running, he said, "It is time for an educator, not a politician, to run our schools, someone who understands the instructional process and individual child development. Public schools are the cornerstone of our democracy."

John Zajac

Party affiliation: Libertarian

Age: not available

Years in Arizona: not available

Residence: Tucson

Secretary of the Arizona Libertarian Party, John Zajac says he's running for superintendent of public instruction to be an advocate for students and parents.

He believes the solution to Arizona's "abysmal" educational system as evidenced by a high school graduation rate of 65 percent is competition.

As it exists now, the state's school system is a monopoly run by the government, an education model borrowed from Russia and other socialist and totalitarian states.

"Under our constitution and enabling act, public education must be nearly free and controlled by the state," Zajac said. "But these conditions don't preclude creating a new system of school choice where every parent in the state will receive a voucher to send their child to the school of their choice."

Zajac also advocates eliminating the state teacher licensing system, calling it a scam to keep supply low and salaries high.

"Teaching is a talent," he said. "Good ones you keep; bad ones you fire."

For more information on Zajac, call (520) 990-3015.

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