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Arizona Superintendent Kathy Hoffman talks 'dream come true' as she heads into office

Posted at 10:16 PM, Jan 25, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-26 08:21:43-05

PHOENIX — The oath has been taken, the official photo is up, now it is time to get to work for Arizona's new Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kathy Hoffman. The former teacher and speech therapist admits it is still sinking in.

"To really have my vision come to reality and to be getting to work on the issues I really care about has just been like a dream come true," Hoffman told me.

Her first orders of business include auditing the Department of Education and improving transparency, but there is no question school funding and the teacher shortage are her top priorities. That includes making sure the governor makes good on his 20 percent teacher pay raise promise.

WATCH: 4 top questions for Arizona's new Superintendent

"Overall, I was pleased because there was a lot in that budget that was dedicated to our schools," Hoffman said. "I feel confident that the 20 by 2020 plan promise will be fulfilled. I haven't seen any red flags that are concerning to me. I think it's more where else can we get funding for our teachers."

Teachers who are leaving the profession in droves. Hoffman says better pay, coupled with benefits like paid parental leave and more opportunities for professional development can help our state be more competitive.

"Anything like that, that can provide incentives and also provide our teachers with support and mentorship, any of those will make a difference," she said.

Hoffman takes the reins with no political or executive experience, a point hammered home by her critics during the campaign. She says she has surrounded herself with experts in the field, starting with her chief of staff.

"Having someone like him at my side who really has seen education through multiple lenses and who can help fill me in at times...he has an understanding of what districts need at a different level than what I did as someone who was in the classroom," Hoffman said.

It is a big task, but Hoffman says she is optimistic Arizona's education crisis can improve.

"That's my biggest goal, I would hope," she said. "I do have a lot of optimism that we will make improvements over the next years, especially with the strengthening economy."