High School Student Stumps AZ GOP Superintendent Candidate With Substantive Questions About Education

In Arizona, GOP state senator John Huppenthal is running for one of the state’s major education positions, Superintendent of Public Instruction. His campaign boasts of his “proven record of improving Arizona schools.”

During a recent interview with high school student Keith Wagner, Huppenthal was caught totally off guard when asked about a vote he cast to cut education funding. Wagner asked the senator about proposed cuts to the state’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, and Huppenthal agreed that the program is “very important.” Wagner then pointed out that, in May 2009, the senator voted to cut $550 million from the Department of Education, but Huppenthal didn’t appear to recall the vote. After being presented with a copy of the bill by Wagner, the senator laughed and said that he didn’t “know the specific bill that you’re talking about”:

WAGNER: So you think that the CTE programs are very important, right?


WAGNER: But in May of 2009 you voted yes on a bill that would cut $550 million from the Department of Education. And a lot of that [funding] was CTE, what factors led to that decision?

HUPPENTHAL: Well, tell me a little bit more about that vote. What committee did it take place in?

WAGNER: I actually have that right here.

(student hands the senator a copy of the vote)

HUPPENTHAL: (laughs)

WAGNER: Well it says right here that this bill actually passed. So, and through the research, we saw that it did pass again in the House of Representatives that did end up cutting $550 million.

HUPPENTHAL: Well, I don’t know the specific bill that you’re talking about, so.

After being pressed by Wagner about his views on CTE programs, Huppenthal awkwardly stands up and walks out of the interview. Huppenthal says “I’ll be right back,” but he doesn’t appear to return. Watch it:

On his website, Huppenthal claims he is being “punked” by a “Democratic dirty trick” because the video has been edited (watch the full interview here). He also claims the the aforementioned cuts never took place, yet as the Arizona Republic notes, “Huppenthal and every other Republican in the Senate voted for the education funding cut.” The vocational funding for the program Wagner is asking about was restored, but only because federal stimulus funds ended up making up for the funding the Republicans slashed. It should be noted that during a 2009 debate on Arizona’s budget, Huppenthal complained, “We don’t have enough cuts in this budget.”