The Republican candidates for Superintendent of Public Instruction (Shiry Sapir, Michelle Udall, and Tom Horne) held a “debate” last week moderated by PBS’s Ted Simons.

During the course of the event, all three attempted to be the educational equivalent of Palpatine from the Star Wars movies: candidates that offered a reassuring audience that their intentions for Arizona’s children and teachers were good. Two of them (Udall and Horne) even said increased targeted funding for schools was necessary. Unfortunately, unlike the Star Wars character, none of them could hide or mask their fringe dark side ideas about what to do with Arizona’s public schools.

Sapir and Horne were tied for worst performance at the event.

According to Sapir, sexual indoctrination and grooming in public schools are widespread. She commented at the beginning of the debate:

“We’d been seeing since COVID the oversexualizing and grooming of our children rampant around our state.”

The moderator, Simons later pointed out, after getting three different definitions of grooming from the three candidates that there are no prosecutions being conducted for these offenses by the Brnovich Attorney General Department.

She also said watching CNN was bad for kids.

If Sapir had her way, all the failing schools would be snapped out of existence and replaced by charter school operators.

Furthermore, she felt the wealthy should be entitled to spend their taxpayer money on sending their children to the private school of their choice.

Sapir also expressed opposition to both Republican and Democratic attempts at statewide and national standards like No Child Left Behind, Common Core, and Race to the Top.

She also thought that students started to fall academically behind when the Red for Ed movement occurred.

Not one of these candidates said anything, nor did the moderator bring it up, that the Coronavirus created a learning gap for children in schools.

Horne, a former Superintendent of Public Education and State Attorney General who has been embroiled in recent scandals, was the most dangerous candidate of the three because he presented the aura of experience and credibility.

In some cases, he sounded perfectly reasonable by commenting on the need for more student discipline and stating more money was needed for schools as long as there was accountability strings attached to it like making statewide assessments requirements for graduation or getting promoted to the next highest grade.

Fortunately for the viewer of the debate, Horne showed his dark side by continually emphasizing that he would get rid of the latest Republican educational bogeyman, Critical Race Theory. He repeatedly stated comments like these from the beginning of the debate:

“I’m a former superintendent of schools. And at that time, Tucson had critical race theory program and I destroyed it. I did it once and I can do it again.”

Udall equated Critical Race Theory as teaching history as “looking at the history and every event that happens through a lens of racism. And the problem with that is when we start teaching our children, our teachers to see race first, then they see race.”

Newsflash: What Horne did in Tucson was not destroying Critical Race Theory. He went after a multicultural history program which was another educational program Republicans attacked before the new flavor of the decade: critical race theory.

Another newsflash for Ms. Udall: There were events in history where race was a factor. Duh.

People watching the three candidates fall over themselves discussing what critical race theory is (honestly, they had no idea) would probably found the debate amusing if it was not so terrifying that these people are running to be the number one educator in the state.

Commenting on the Republican Debate, Arizona Democratic Spokesperson (and former public information officer for the Arizona Department of Education )Morgan Dick relayed:

“The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction is vital to the success of Arizona’s public schools and the over one million children they serve. Each of these candidates has already proven they aren’t up for the job. We need a leader who is committed to bringing people together, not driving them apart. We need a Superintendent who is willing to have tough conversations about the realities of the world we live in, not shy away from hard truths about our nation’s history. We need a Superintendent committed to lifting up our public schools, not tearing them down.”