AG Mayes and Governor Hobbs Have a New Target: AZ Schools Superintendent Tom Horne

Over the last few months, Governor Katie Hobbs and AZ Attorney General Kris Mayes have started to realize and actualize the power that they can wield together (you can read up on our coverage on Hobbs here and Mayes here). Most of this exploration has revolved around battles related to legislation, both real and potential, but rarely have they had a specific statewide elected official that is engaging them in a dust-up.

That is until now…in a recent development, both are fighting back against State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Horne. He filed a lawsuit against them since they will not offer him the legal protection to implement a desired initiative of his: an end to “dual-language” programs in public schools that he believes are both ineffective and illegal.

Education has been a focal point for ideological battles in Arizona for the last few years with school board meetings being the primary battlegrounds. But perhaps the starkest contrast regarding this issue has been with the role of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Horne’s predecessor, Kathy Hoffman, was known for stridently progressive views regarding any and all social issues, including immersion learning. Meanwhile, Horne has never shied away from taking a more hardline stance on all things immigration.

Does his charge have merit? While Horne’s political past as both a previous Superintendent as well as state AG have shown, he has no problem diving straight into the culture wars of the time, including forays into both illegal immigration and “ethnic studies” in his previous stint as Superintendent, this stance may have some more meat on it. He posits that the 50/50 immersion learning (four hours in English and four in Spanish) likely violates Proposition 203, approved by Arizona voters in 2020, but also concedes that two hours in Spanish would be acceptable to him, a more accommodative stance than he has held in the past.

While the Arizona of the year 2000 was a starkly different one than today in a number of different ways, and many prevalent views then would likely be seen as outdated now, the law is the law unless the voters are given a chance to say otherwise. Horne, the former state AG, knows that as well as current AG Kris Mayes. That said, we are far from legal experts insofar as law interpretation goes and will willingly defer to the judicial system, which will have its crack at it.

And just like that, a new front is opened up for the war between the Democrat team of Hobbs and Mayes and the Republican establishment, but this time in the executive branch. Hobbs and Mayes have continued to find their feet and push the boundaries of what they can do as a duo. It’s fair to say that this is likely to be a very interesting legislative session coming up as their collective heels dig in further and the fights become even more rancorous.