Riggs is easy choice for state superintendent

Frank Riggs is the best choice to be Arizona’s next superintendent of public instruction. Any honest assessment of the qualifications of the two candidates for the position reveals a clear, unambiguous choice.

But somehow, in the face of overwhelming and obvious evidence, the editorial board of The Arizona Republic endorsed Riggs’ opponent, Kathy Hoffman. There is no contest in terms of which candidate has the experience to lead a governmental entity as critically important as the state Department of Education.

Frank Riggs has exactly what voters should want in a state superintendent. The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry has strongly endorsed him. Many elected statewide positions require tough calls by the Chamber when we issue an endorsement. This one, however, was one of the easiest of the entire general election cycle.

Riggs will get the Department of Education back to the business of education. He has no interest in using the post to pick fights or get into turf battles with the state Board of Education. He does not view the position as a chance to overhaul education standards to fit his view of the world.

Education leadership professionals like former state superintendents Lisa Graham Keegan and Jaime Molera—two committed education reformers who understand how integral the position is to our state’s educational success—have endorsed him.

Meanwhile, his opponent’s campaign was managed by the chief agitator behind a teacher strike and who brought us the ballot initiative that would have completely dismantled significant education reforms that were part of the voter-approved Proposition 301, which the Legislature extended for an additional 20 years earlier this year.

Had the initiative, which among other wrongheaded proposals called for a dramatic dilution of the definition of teacher, passed, tremendous damage would have been done to the state’s economy, making additional progress on teacher pay a near impossibility. Hoffman’s support of the doomed initiative is a damning indictment of her understanding of the connection between Arizona’s economic health and our ability to improve teacher pay.

Riggs is not an activist. He does not want to be superintendent in order to air a long list of grievances or to get headlines. He will be a leader focused on doing what’s best for Arizona’s students, ensuring they leave our K-12 system ready for higher education or the job market.

The state Department of Education is big. Hundreds of employees handle billions in state and federal dollars. Getting those funds to their intended schools on time hasn’t always happened. If there’s any arm of state government that needs fresh eyes and managerial expertise, it’s ADE.

Riggs has what it takes. He’s a former member of Congress and a business leader. Arizona will be incredibly fortunate to elect someone with his mix of educational, legislative, and executive experience.

That Capitol Hill experience makes him the most qualified superintendent candidate we’ve had in years to navigate the complicated interplay of state and federal educational policy. Riggs understands the language of government, which will allow him to break through the bureaucracy of the U.S. Department of Education to do what’s best for Arizona.

Riggs will be a superintendent for all public schools. He won’t pit district schools against public charter schools. He stands with parents who want to ensure that their kids are in a school environment that best meets their needs.

That includes ensuring that our kids are safe. Riggs is a former police officer. He knows that school resource officers can be the difference between life and death. Gov. Doug Ducey needs an eager partner at ADE who is just as committed as he is to keeping our kids out of harm’s way when they’re at school. As a parent with three kids in public school, I can’t overstate how important it is to have a state superintendent who will make school safety a top priority.

The Republic recommended Riggs’ opponent on the grounds that its editorial board members find her, in early 30s and with no political experience, more energetic.

Maybe I’m overly sensitive now that I’m more than a few years beyond my bar mitzvah age, but it’s a flabbergasting quality on which to base an election recommendation. No one is more committed, more dogged, and yes, more energetic in his belief that our students, parents, and taxpayers deserve a world-class Arizona Department of Education than Frank Riggs.

I urge you to vote for Frank Riggs for state superintendent of public instruction. The choice couldn’t be clearer.

Glenn Hamer is the president and CEO of the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Glenn Hamer

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