The Arizona general election will be held on November 4, 2014. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. To acquaint you with our endorsed candidates, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates.” In order to vote in the general election, you must register to vote by October 6 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2014!
“I don’t understand why you’re interviewing David Garcia,” a friend of mine told me earlier this summer when she learned that I was doing so. “I mean — wait. I understand why you’re interviewing him and not someone else — but I don’t understand why you’re interviewing someone for superintendent of public instruction for Planned Parenthood.”
Though I didn’t have the words to express it in the moment, I have had a lot of time since the first interview to ponder the idea.
“We must end the dismantling of our public schools and instead reinvest and prioritize public education …”
Essentially, the conclusion I’ve come to is this: Planned Parenthood supports high quality education for everyone. When I go to a Planned Parenthood health center, knowledgeable professionals treat me with respect as a person, provide me with accurate and comprehensive information, and work with me to evaluate and apply that information to help me make the choices that are best for me.
Applied to students, teachers, and schools, that is basically David Garcia’s campaign platform in a nutshell. By getting away from our over-dependence on standardized testing — a setup where “teaching to the test” and leading students toward testing companies’ supposed “right answers” is heavily rewarded — educators can foster curiosity and critical thinking skills that give students a framework for seeking out and evaluating information in unfamiliar circumstances. While I hesitate to use “teacher clichés,” that really is a life skill that translates across multiple areas of life — from choosing a college (or other form of post-secondary pursuits) to re-evaluating a career move, from choosing a contraceptive method to evaluating whether an intimate partner relationship is showing signs of abuse. The skill is the same; it’s only the context that’s different.
And all of that is the antithesis of Diane Douglas’ positions. She is running on a single note platform to abolish the Common Core State Standards — without suggesting a replacement, without any kind of understanding of the deeper or more nuanced educational issues that must be negotiated. As a public educator who cares both about my own students and the Arizona I want to leave to future generations, I am appalled by Ms. Douglas’ campaign.
In order to further differentiate himself and his campaign from that of Ms. Douglas, Dr. Garcia was gracious enough to take the time for a second interview on September 18, 2014.
What do you hope to accomplish for Arizona’s K-12 students as superintendent of public instruction?
We must end the dismantling of our public schools and instead reinvest and prioritize public education as essential for our students and essential for a healthy Arizona economy. Instead of working to attract talent from outside of our state, let’s prepare our own students for the demands of a 21st century economy. We do this by implementing high standards and revamping our accountability system to one that ends our obsession with standardized tests and instead allows teachers to teach. By focusing on outcomes that prepare students for college and career, outcomes such as passing a rigorous high school curriculum, career and technical education certifications, and academic proficiency in multiple world languages, we ensure Arizona’s students have the tools necessary for life after high school.
In her response to a survey from the Center for Arizona Policy, your opponent Diane Douglas stated that while serving on the Peoria Unified School District Governing Board, she opposed an addition to policy that would have extended anti-discrimination protections to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. As a public school teacher myself, I know that school bullying and discrimination are real problems and that our LGBTQ students are often targets. How might this lack of protection and recourse affect these students’ opportunity for educational success — and how does Ms. Douglas’ advocacy for this exclusion reflect on her fitness for the office she seeks?
All students should be safe in their schools and that includes being safe from bullying, both physical and psychological bullying. The better question on this issue is why would Ms. Douglas oppose protections that could keep kids in her own district safe from physical or psychological harm? My opponent is not looking to do what’s best for students, schools, or our state but rather to govern on an ideological platform that will have dangerous and long-lasting effects on our students.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that distinguishes you from your opponent?
My opponent has made the repeal of high standards the centerpiece of her campaign. She offers no alternative for college and career readiness and, in fact, demeans colleges of education on her own website. She does not acknowledge the alarming achievement gap that exists with our poor and minority students and has offered no solutions or ideas on how to tackle our state’s abysmal teacher retention rates or unacceptable high school dropout rates.
She voted against funding for her own schools and was the subject of a parent-led recall. The Arizona Republic said her “depth of knowledge about education rivals a cardboard cutout” and that she has no experience that would prepare her for running a large state agency.
I have made myself available for multiple debates and interviews, speaking openly and honestly with parents, teachers, administrators, and voters about my views on Arizona education. My opponent has yet to agree to a single debate or joint media appearance with me, which begs the question, “What is she hiding?”
If you’d like to learn more about Dr. Garcia’s campaign, including his growing list of endorsements since the primary election, you can do so by visiting his campaign website or by following him on Facebook or Twitter. You can also read our first interview with Dr. Garcia, conducted in July, to learn more about his background, as well as his thoughts on high-school dropout rates, the importance of inclusiveness in schools, and comprehensive sexuality education.