Using students to Horne into office
By Richard Ruelas
The Arizona Republic columnist
Nov. 1, 2002
Tom Horne is right. It is a dead issue. Citizens across Arizona don't need
to worry about what happened two months at an elementary school in northeast
Phoenix. "I think you're making more of it than it is," Horne tells me.
After all, this happened back in mid-August and affected less than 200
students in the Paradise Valley Unified School District, where he is the
Since then, there have been two School Board meetings filled with angry
parents demanding answers, wondering why they weren't consulted.
And a lawyer has started snooping around for documents that could show
students were treated as political pawns.
But, to Horne, what happened to Spanish-speaking students at Palomino
Elementary School shouldn't matter.
Especially not to Arizona voters who decide Tuesday whether Horne or state
Sen. Jay Blanchard becomes superintendent of public instruction.
"People have falsely said that it was political," Horne says, "and that's
absolutely wrong and baseless."
Although it is true that the radical change in these students' education
happened when Horne was feeling political heat.
He had pushed the idea that the sitting state superintendent, Jaime Molera,
wasn't enforcing the voter-approved ban on bilingual education. Horne bought
up tons of TV time to get his message across. "And unlike Jaime Molera," he
said on the air, "I'll enforce the ban on bilingual education so all
children learn English."
Horne said Molera was doing nothing about districts in Tucson and parts of
Phoenix that were abusing a loophole in the law that allowed students to get
waivers and remain in bilingual programs.
But Molera, in August, was starting to point out that those waivers were
being handed out in great numbers in Horne's own district, especially at
Palomino Elementary School, which had just started a dual-language program.
Abruptly, just before the school year and without notification to parents,
the district canceled the waivers of 188 Palomino kids. Those kids, who knew
some English but weren't fluent, were moved into regular classrooms,
although they still receive some instruction in Spanish.
Horne says he knew for a year that improper waivers were being handed out.
But he did nothing to stop it. He left it up to district staff.
"The decision was up to the superintendent," he says. "I made it clear to
him that whatever happened was a professional decision to be made by him."
The district superintendent, Tom Krebbs, agrees that it was his own
decision, going so far to say that he never talked to Horne about it.
"Tom Horne wasn't even involved in it," he says.
In fact, Krebbs says the shifting of students was ordered by the state.
"Basically the state required it to be changed," he says.
If that's true, that means Molera was enforcing the ban on bilingual
education, especially in Horne's own district.
Horne's and Krebbs' stories don't make sense. They seem to be in direct
That's why an attorney, Suzanne Dallimore, has filed a request asking for
any records of Krebbs and Horne discussing this program. So far, that
request has gone unfulfilled.
To Horne, this is an old issue. And he's right.
Voters don't need to worry about whether Horne used schoolchildren to
further his political career.
So long as they don't elect him on Tuesday.
Reach Ruelas at (602) 444-8473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.