Who am I?

I have devoted my career to improving Arizona public schools. The son of a commercial painter and a factory worker, I graduated from Mesa High School, enlisted with the U.S. Army Infantry and trained as a nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare specialist.

I was the first in my family to attend college, earning a Bachelor’s degree at Arizona State University and a doctorate at the University of Chicago. I returned to Arizona and served as a policy analyst in the state legislature and as an Associate Superintendent of Public Instruction for Standards and Accountability. I currently teach future education leaders as an Associate Professor at my alma mater.

I have been recognized nationally for my expertise in education research and policy, and in 2008, was awarded the National Academy of Education/Spencer Postdoctoral Fellowship, one of the most prestigious academic awards in the country. I am an author with numerous national publications and the director of the Arizona Education Policy Initiative at Arizona State University.

I reside in Phoenix with his wife, Lori A. Higuera, where we raise our two daughters in a bilingual home. A native Arizonan and public school parent, I have first-hand knowledge of what it means to attend and choose Arizona public schools.

Why am I running?

I’ve worked in public education my entire career. I started as an education policy analyst with the state senate and later became the Associate Superintendent of Public Instruction for Standards and Accountability. As a professor I’ve studied, authored and lectured on education policy and research and taught hundreds of Arizona’s principals and superintendents.

My career has led me down the path to Superintendent, but my personal life – that of a native Arizonan and parent to two daughters in public schools – is what convinced me to run.

I believe childhood is the most precious gift of life and that we spend our adult lives either benefiting from the rewards of a great childhood or overcoming a bad one. In Arizona, where so many kids start off with the deck stacked against them, we should do everything in our power to offer an exceptional, healthy and positive education experience for all of our kids.

My Goals

Measure What Matters: Success in life doesn’t come from passing a multiple-choice test, and yet, 96% of Arizona's school letter grade system is based on standardized test score results. We need an accountability system that measures real-world indicators of success such as a rigorous high school curriculum, career and technical education certifications and foreign language proficiency. Currently none of these indicators are part of our accountability system even though they matter to students and parents.

I have already worked to create this type of accountability system. Several years ago I designed the state's first school accountability system, called ArizonaLEARNS. By request of the state board of education, I also led a task force on high-stakes testing, and elements of our findings are now in policy. I have the experience and expertise to create a model accountability system, one that prepares students for college and career and treats teachers professionally.

One Size Does Not Fit All: Instead of trying to create cookie-cutter schools with the same type of learning environment and curriculum, we should be encouraging our schools to experiment. Be innovative. Be different. Community schools should be designed to benefit the students they serve with a focus on what students can do. Write a business plan, publish a book, speak three languages. Match a tool to a student’s talents. This is the next breakthrough in public education, and this is how we create the types of exceptional schools that keep students in school and engaged in their success.

I put forward a bill this past legislative session as an example of the kind of policies my administration will promote. Like lots of good democratic ideas, it wasn't able to move forward, however, once elected this will become a priority.

Fund for Success: If we wish to pull Arizona up from the bottom of the rankings, then we must make specific dollar investments in programs targeted to the needs of each community’s students. For instance, in lower-income neighborhoods, access to early childhood education is essential and funding for all-day Kindergarten makes sense. Putting an emphasis on what we’re funding instead of indiscriminately sending money to one account or the other ensures we are adequately supporting the areas most likely to affect positive outcomes and produce tangible results.

I have worked with Arizona's business community, a group known as ABEC, to help develop a framework for restructuring our antiquated finance system. I've also worked to engage the business community and other stakeholders such as the Rodel Foundation on the importance of a new funding model, so that when I'm elected, these groups will be ready and willing to move forward.

My DFA Values

Arizona is on the front lines of a nationwide movement to dismantle our public schools. Our state Superintendent of Public Instruction as well as a major portion of our state legislators have taken their marching orders from ALEC and moved to implement a statewide voucher system, one that will undermine our public schools and leave our most vulnerable children with the scraps of an underfunded public education system.

Our current public schools chief’s most recent attempt to dismantle our public schools came in the form of a robocall to public school parents. In a call sent to thousands of households, he encouraged parents to choose private schools.

Since this happened, I have operated my campaign under the message of “standing with public schools.” I will not give up on our schools or stand by and watch our legislature tear them apart. Instead, I will fight to strengthen our public schools and provide opportunities for ALL of Arizona’s kids to receive an exceptional education at an Arizona public school.

My Campaign is People Powered!

We are running an engagement campaign which builds strong volunteer teams activating the people power for David's candidacy. We are organizing educator, parent, student and social justice groups around the state into field teams that will do rigorous voter contact work.

We are connecting with DREAMer networks all over the state through deep grass-roots relationships forged in shoulder-to-shoulder organizing work for justice. Our DREAMer leaders represent multiple municipalities, networks, schools and organizations. Often used as political 'props' or token voices in electoral work, on the Garcia campaign our grass-roots leaders are highly valued and protected from tokenization and manipulation. Leaders set personal and team goals and hold each-other accountable to meet them.

Similarly, we are working with school leaders state-wide. Our relationships with teacher associations at the local, state and national level are strong and we parter with Teach For America Corps members, District Superintendents, parent and student leaders as well. Organizing educators along with parents and students together creates a strong three-legged stool of grass-roots support for David Garcia.

On April 26th, our organizing work will convene into a day-long day of action and training that will launch our state-wide volunteer-driven field work.

Voice support


  • jerry millerr
  • Kelsie Dunmire

About the Endorsement Process

The driving force behind all DFA endorsements is our members. We recognize that all politics is local and that what is considered progressive in Los Angeles may be very different from what's considered progressive in Louisville. For this reason, DFA does not have a litmus test of specific progressive positions for which a candidate must stand. Our endorsement is heavily weighted based on these questions:

• Will the candidate move the progressive movement forward in their community?
• Does the candidate have substantial support from our local members?
• Do the candidate's positions and policies fit into the broader progressive movement?
• Is the campaign people-powered and the candidate working to win?

If you have questions, or want to let us know about a candidate in your neighborhood, please call us at (802) 651-3200 or email us at [email protected] .

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