Garcia, Douglas, Thomas seek Arizona’s top education office

adeDemocrat David Garcia, an Associate Professor at Arizona State University, is vying for Superintendent of Public Instruction, the state’s top position in public education. Garcia is one of four candidates, including current state Superintendent John Huppenthal, who have formed campaign committees to run for the position in 2014.

The race is balanced at this time with Phoenix Union High School District teacher Sharon Thomas, a Democrat, and former Peoria Unified School District board member, Diane Douglas, a Republican, also throwing their names in the ring.

Diane Douglas, a Republican, says it is Superintendent Huppenthal’s support for a current initiative that sparked her desire to run. She believes that Common Core represents a federal takeover of Arizona’s education system. “My vision is to put Arizona’s education back in the hands of Arizonans,” Douglas said. “We know what’s best for our children and we don’t need people from Washington telling us how to educate our children.”

Common Core was developed by a coalition of educators, some of whom now reject the final product. No federal law or regulation requires the adoption of the standards.

Garcia graduated with a Bachelor’s degree from ASU and earned a Master’s degree and a doctorate in Educational Research from the University of Chicago. According to Garcia, “Accountability is important, but we need to do it right. And to do it right, you need to measure what matters.”

Garcia admits he faces an uphill battle; a Democrat has not held the seat since C. Diane Bishop was state superintendent in the early 1990s.

Democrat Thomas, a high-school English teacher who failed in a bid for a seat on the Cochise County Board of Supervisors, said Garcia, along with other candidates, lacks the experience in the classroom needed to guide the state. “It’s time to get an educator in charge of education in Arizona,” Thomas said.

Andrew Morrill, President of the Arizona Education Association, isn’t convinced a new superintendent will address students’ needs. The teachers union likely will have its first discussion about endorsing candidates in December. Morrill said. “I do not see a person elected out of the political process putting forth a plan that includes high outcomes and expectations and the credible, research-based strategies to get us there.”

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