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State schools boss talks priorities

February 6, 2019

PHOENIX — Other issues raised by state schools chief Kathy Hoffman in her Monday State of Education speech include:

• Teacher shortages. Hoffman specifically mentioned the fact there are only 150 physics teachers in the entire state. She said that’s one reason Arizona has only 20 percent of high schoolers taking physics, making it difficult to convince students to become engineers, scientists or doctors.

• Class size. She said teachers feel “unequipped’’ to manage a class of 30 while trying to find the time to provide individualized attention to students, particularly those facing depression, anxiety or suicidal thoughts. She said that also points up the need for more counselors.

• English learners. Hoffman supports legislation to allow students with limited English proficiency to spend more time in general education coursework with native English-speaking peers. She said research says that actually improves the success of the English-learner students.

• Charter schools. The new superintendent wants these schools, which are public schools but can be privately owned, to have the same requirements for financial accountability when they purchase goods and services. She said expenditures “most be in the best interest of schools and the students they serve.’’

• Rural teacher retention. Hoffman said some rural districts have problems attracting and retaining teachers because of the lack of affordable housing. She cited one teacher at Mayer High School who deals with the problem by living in a recreational vehicle near campus.

• Support staff. Hoffman said that the raises that have been promised to teachers exclude art, music, and special education teachers as well as counselors and speech therapists. She wants a “dedicated, sustainable funding source’’ to address that, saying it need not go to the ballot.

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