- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 12, 2017

PHOENIX (AP) - Republican Gov. Doug Ducey got his first serious challenger in his 2018 re-election bid when Democrat David Garcia announced Wednesday that he’ll seek his party’s nomination.

Garcia is an Arizona State University associate professor and former assistant superintendent with the Department of Education. The 47-year-old lost a bid for Superintendent of Public Instruction to Republican Diane Douglas in 2014.

He said at a Capitol news conference that Ducey failed the state’s public school children by signing a massive expansion of the state’s private school voucher program.

“He plans to cut public education until our schools bleed out,” Garcia said. “We are dead last, Doug Ducey. And instead of supporting our public schools, which are the bedrock of the middle class and the gateway to opportunity and the key to Arizona’s economic strength, he’s made it harder for our students to reach their dreams.”

Garcia was referring to Arizona’s ranking on state school funding, which is at or near the lowest in many national measures. His announcement came as more than 100 supporters cheered him on. He called for an end to cuts to education.

“I am here for the children who depend on our public schools to help them make a difference in their lives and for their families,” Garcia said. “And I am here to tell our great teachers, I know you were also betrayed.”

Ducey has pushed back against critics who say the voucher expansion will drain money from public education. The expanded program signed into law last week will make all Arizona children eligible to take public cash to fund private school tuition. A cap limits enrollment to 30,000 children by 2022, but many fear it will be quickly lifted.

Ducey on Tuesday called the voucher expansion law another choice for parents.

“This is a law that already exists, this is a program that is gradual, it’s a program that is capped, it’s a program that was done with the input of a very thoughtful legislator who provided an amendment that was a compromise,” he said.

Asked Tuesday about the expected announcement by Garcia, Ducey said campaign seasons are far too long and he’ll talk about it next year.

“I do intend to stand on my record of action and accomplishments,” the governor said.

Democratic state Sen. Steve Farley is also considering a challenge to Ducey. He said that with the Legislature in session he’s too busy “trying to defend the students, parents and teachers of the state of Arizona against the policies of Gov. Ducey.

“Once the session is over I will be making an announcement,” Farley said.

Political unknown Noah Dyer has also announced a long-shot bid for the Democratic nomination.

Garcia said Ducey’s accomplishments leave a lot to be desired. Ducey helped settle a long-running lawsuit over the Legislature’s failure to adequately fund K-12 education and got voters to approve a 10-year, $3.5 billion increase in funding by tapping the state land trust last year. This year, he’s proposing an additional $114 million in education spending above inflation adjustments.

But the governor’s promise to follow up with more funding for K-12 education has been overshadowed by his backing of the voucher bill.

“He signed a voucher bill that make no mistake will drain hundreds of millions of dollars from our schools,” Garcia said.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide