It’s rare in a state as potlitically polarized as Arizona for a candidate to win bipartisan support.
But David Garcia, who is running for state superintendent of public instruction, is one such candidate, and his talents are sorely needed. Arizona’s public schools have not kept pace financially or academically with the rest of the country, and they need a forceful and articulate champion to move them forward from the back of the pack.
Garcia, a Democrat, is a former associate state superintendent of schools under two Republicans and has won their endorsements. He is now an associate professor at Arizona State University and has won the endorsement of the Arizona Chamber of the Commerce.
He also has experience as a research analyst for the state Senate Education Committee and a consultant for the U.S. Department of Education.
What unites Garcia’s impressively diverse coalition behind him is a commitment to not only strong student preparation for the global work environment but making sure children who lag behind because of poverty or language have an equal chance at success.
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He is a strong proponent of the new Common Core academic standards that emphasize critical thinking, and he also wants to change school funding formulas, which now treat mainstream publics and charter schools differently. He has shown he can work both sides of the political aisle as well as with employers and local school boards while bringing a critical intelligence to the field of public education policy.
That is head and shoulders above the Republican candidate, Diane Douglas, who brings just seven years on the Peoria school board and a degree in business marketing. Of more concern is her misguided, single-issue campaign against the Common Core as a product of what she feels is unaccountable federal overreach that is out of touch with the grassroots needs of parents and their children.
The standards, in fact, were crafted by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers working with business leaders. Several states like Massachusetts have had Common Core-like standards in place for more than a decade, and they now have world-class test scores and legions of parents who support them.
Massachusetts, however, also spends nearly twice as much per student as Arizona to help students meet the higher standards. That may be unrealistic here in the short term, but at least Garcia will not be leading the charge to transfer public funds into unaccountable private schools.
More important, if anyone can shake Arizona loose from the mindset that it’s OK to have a second-rate public education system, it is David Garcia. He is a top-notch candidate, and we expect him to be a top-notch state superintendent of schools.