Arizona Dem Pledges Educational Accountability if Elected Governor Despite Own Record

Education advocate running for Arizona governor skipped nearly half of charter school board meetings

David Garcia
David Garcia / Facebook

David Garcia, the Democratic nominee for governor of Arizona, missed nearly half of all meetings of the charter school board he sat on between 2013 and 2017, despite making educational oversight and transparency a focal point of his campaign.

Garcia, an education advocate who lost a closer than expected campaign for Arizona superintendent of public instruction in 2014, has sought to make education the defining issue of his challenge to first-term incumbent Republican governor Doug Ducey.

Pitching himself to voters as the "person most capable of tackling the crisis in Arizona’s schools," Garcia has promised to fight the "privatization" of the state's education system. He has also promised to overturn Arizona's recently expanded voucher school program if elected in November.

Perhaps no issue, however, has defined Garcia's candidacy than accountability and oversight of the state's burgeoning charter school system.

In March, while unveiling his plan to invest in public education, Garcia expressed that as a "public school parent" he was "committed" to ensuring Arizona's schools were providing their students with a quality education.

Garcia's plan specifically lambasted "bad actors" in Arizona's charter school system and asserted the candidate's pledge to hold educational institutions "accountable" for how they use public dollars.

"Many times, today’s school choice movement in Arizona is focused not on students but instead on profits, which is why we see rampant waste, fraud, graft, and abuse in the Arizona charter system," the plan reads. "David will emphasize transparency and accountability when it comes to the use of public dollars and hold all schools accountable to the same procurement and financial reporting standards, whether they be traditional public schools or charter schools."

Documents obtained by the Washington Free Beacon show that while Garcia's has called for greater transparency, oversight, and accountability in public education—especially charter schools—he hasn't held himself to the same standard.

From 2013 to 2017, Garcia sat on the board of directors of the Arizona School for the Arts (ASA), a charter school attended by his oldest daughter. The school's board of directors is tasked with overseeing ASA's administrative staff, approving finances, and providing input on curriculum and day-to-day operations.

According to the board's official meeting records, Garcia missed 28 out of 45 meetings over his four-year tenure.

Although Garcia's attendance pattern was never spotty, with the candidate either missing or attending multiple meetings in succession, a context for his absence begins to emerge upon closer inspection.

In between Garcia's appointment to the board in 2013 and the end of 2014, the candidate missed 13 out of 24 meetings. Garcia's absences appear to directly overlap with his campaign to be elected superintendent of public instruction, the elected official charged with overseeing Arizona's public school system.

Prior to officially announcing his exploratory committee for superintendent in June 2013, Garcia missed two meetings in a row. The candidate then attended nearly every board meeting, save for two, until midway through 2014.

Starting in June 2014, two months before the Arizona Democratic primary in which Garcia was seeking the nomination for superintendent, the candidate missed five consecutive meetings. Garcia broke his prolonged period of absence by attending the Nov. 24 board meeting, nearly three weeks after losing the general election.

While the candidate was campaigning to oversee Arizona's education system in 2014, ASA's board of directors was drafting and voting to approve the operating budget for the coming school year.

A similar pattern repeated itself when Garcia began laying the groundwork for his gubernatorial run. Throughout 2017, the candidate missed 7 out of 11 board meetings—including 5 out of the 8 meetings following his announcement for governor in April of that year. Garcia's absence resulted in missed votes on ASA's annual financial reporting documents and an audit of the school's finances required by law.

Apart from the missed votes on ASA's budget and financial reporting documents, the candidate's other absences during his tenure resulted in lost opportunities to offer input on the school's official calendar year, merit score, and board diversity, among others.

Garcia appears to have officially left the ASA board of directors in November 2017 after skipping four consecutive meetings.

It is unclear whether Garcia resigned on his own volition or if his departure resulted from attendance issues. Neither ASA nor the Garcia campaign responded to requests for this story.

Republican representative Paul Boyer, a teacher who chairs the education committee in the Arizona House of Representatives, told the Free Beacon it was hypocritical for Garcia to run on holding charter schools accountable.

"It's hypocritical of David Garcia to be ranting about charter schools when he didn't do his job in an oversight role," Boyer said. "As someone who is an educator, and an elected official, I can't respect someone who doesn't have the responsibility to show up for the job he's been assigned."

"So my question is, how can we trust David Garcia as governor when he has a track record of not doing his job, or even showing up?" Boyer added.