My State Superintendent is most certainly a politician. In Arizona, the office of State Superintendent of Public Instruction is the third highest elective office in the stateafter governor and attorney general. Not surprisingly, the Superintendent office has attracted the attention of ambitious politicians who view it as a stepping stone to higher things. The result is that the office has frequently been abused, and the public schools have been the victims.
Perhaps no one has been more abusive than one Tom Horne, State Superintendent of Public Instruction for Arizona from 2003 to 2010. Horne has a law degree from Harvard and prior to his superintendency, he served for four years in the Arizona House of Representatives. During his superintendency, the large Latino contingent of the Arizona public school population came in for some hard times. Horne opposed bi-lingual education at every juncture, and even arrogantly made a point of "learning" Spanish in three months to demonstrate to bi-lingual advocates that they should quit whining about needing special treatment of non-English speaking children.
In 2010, Horne was elected State's Attorney General. His political star was soaring. That star crashed ignominiously a couple weeks ago when Horne was charged with a hit-and-run class 3 misdemeanor when two FBI agents, who were following him in connection with a potential indictment for election fraud, witnessed him crashing into the rear fender ($1,000 damages) of a parked car while exiting the parking garage of his chief assistant's apartment house at mid-day. The FBI had concluded earlier that his assistant, whom he had brought with him from the Department of Educationone Carmen Chenalwas more than an assistant. Public opinion has sided with Horne's wife. Horne is accused by local newspaper columnists as having dragged a retinue of cronies into the Department of Education, and subsequently having dragged them with him to the Attorney General's office.
Horne's legal troubles did not start with his having left the scene of an accident in 2012. Back when he was elected State Superintendent in 2003, a colleague and I received an email from a friend at Boston College that read in effect, "You guys elected Tom Horne?!" According to this friendwho was a fellow student of Horne's at Harvard Law SchoolHorne was nearly indicted for stock fraud while in law school and did in fact receive a lifetime ban by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
In the last 15 or so years, Horne has received six speeding tickets including one in a school zone.
This man's future is unclear. His string of political victories in Arizona may have run out. He recently contributed an op-ed piece to the Arizona Republic. He wanted to list his achievements in office to counter what he considered unbalanced negative coverage of his unfortunate contretemps. His defense reminded me of a possibly apocryphal court case. A young man was accused of having murdered his parents, all four siblings, and the family dog. In the accused's defense, his lawyer produced the dog in the courtroom, alive.
Aren't there already enough pure politicians trying to run public education?
Gene V Glass
University of Colorado Boulder
Arizona State University