An upcoming book by Governor candidate David R. Garcia entitled School Choice is a blueprint on how to dismantle public education in Arizona, complete with practical tips on how to implement school vouchers and ESAs (“empowerment scholarship accounts”).
The Blog for Arizona exclusively obtained a review copy of the 196-page book, which will be published one month after the primary elections on September 28, 2018, by The MIT Press.
The book is not an academic work. Garcia says it is for a “general audience” on page 97. It is a how-to playbook for the anti-public-school, pro-school-voucher agenda pushed by Gov. Doug Ducey and the Koch brothers, complete with strategies, arguments, legal precedents to cite, successful examples and historic points of reference.
Garcia is facing Democrats Steven Farley and Kelly Fryer in the primary. Gov. Doug Ducey is running for re-election.
As the 2018 midterms approach, Arizona is one of the biggest political battlegrounds nationwide and public education is a major issue. The Southwestern state features one of the top 9 most important state legislature races in the US in the midterm elections. Arizona is expected to decide the control of the U.S. Senate in this year’s congressional midterm elections.
Book has a strong bias against public schools
David N. Gibbs, Professor of History of the University of Arizona also read the manuscript at my request and pronounced it “disturbing,” because Garcia’s website says, on the one hand, that he wants to “Replace Privatization Schemes with Good Public School Choices,” and that he will “Oppose Vouchers that are harmful, unaccountable and discriminatory in any shape, form or disguise. When elected, David will fight to end voucher schemes.”
But Gibbs said: “You can cite this book and can find information in it to support your case for charter schools and vouchers.” Gibbs leads the effort Kochs Off Campus! — a nonpartisan group of Tucson residents, UA faculty, and students concerned about the undue influence of right-wing money on public education.
“David Garcia’s book School Choice betrays a strong bias against public schools and in favor of privatization. While he does acknowledge some criticisms of school vouchers, charter schools and the like, the overwhelming tone is one of support. The language is tendentious and revealing, with advocates of vouchers and charter schools characterized as “pro-choice” activists, which implicitly disparages advocates of public schools as anti-choice.”
“This is the language of right-wing advocacy more than scholarship. When Garcia discusses Arizona’s leading role in promoting charter schools, one senses a measure of personal pride in the narrative. Milton Friedman is quoted liberally, and with a generally positive tone. Overall, reading the book gives me a strong sense that the author is an advocate for privatized education. His views on education do not seem very different from those of Doug Ducey — or Charles Koch.”
A Manchurian Candidate
Indeed, many Democrats consider Garcia a “Manchurian Candidate,” a person running for office who publicly supports one group to win an election, but who uses his executive or legislative powers to assist an opposing group.
For example, Garcia’s book offers legal tips for school voucher operatives to use. “ESA programs has been defended as constitutional even in states with Blaine amendments that prohibit direct government aid to religious educational institutions,” citing the court ruling in Niehaus v. Huppenthal, Maricopa County Superior Court of Arizona. 310 P.3d 983 (2013).
On page 80, Garcia adds a school-voucher strategy tip, “For this reason, I anticipate that ESA programs, rather than vouchers, will be expanded in the future. The legal precedent is set to allow policymakers seeking to provide students access to private religious schools through school choice policies to accomplish their goals through ESA programs.”
Garcia’s School Choice is a blueprint to dismantle public education in Arizona. Charter schools suck the lifeblood out of Arizona public schools, because 83 percent of funding for charter schools comes from the state, compared to only 44 percent for district public schools.
Republican Gov. Ducey and Libertarians disparage public schools as “government schools.” The explosion of charter schools has been an effective way to sabotage public education statewide. In Arizona, charter schools enroll 16 percent of the state student population, but they get 26 percent of state education funding.
On April 6, 2017, Ducey signed into law Senate Bill 1431, allowing parents to use prepaid bank cards to pay for education-related tuition and fees, textbooks, and curriculum for religious and for-profit private schools. This met an immediate negative response from the public. Parents, students and teachers in the statewide Save Our Schools movement have put a public initiative on the ballot (Proposition 305) to overturn’s Gov. Ducey’s “ESA” school voucher program.
A textbook for a right-wing class on education
“Arizona parents are regarded as consumers and encouraged to vote with their feet by exiting traditional public schools in favor of charter schools,” Garcia writes on page 37.
Garcia’s book is tailor-made for a Koch brothers course on public education. For example, Libertarian Assistant Professor Jonny Anomaly of the Koch Brothers’ “Freedom School” at the UA in Tucson describes education as a “good,” like a box of cereal, which students “consume.” Anomaly makes a bogus economic analysis of “markets for education,” as if education were a product to be bought and sold.
Gibbs says, “If you wanted to present a libertarian or right-wing course on education, you could use this textbook quite easily, because is so much information to support your case. You Can trot out that he’s a democrat and can’t be accused of only using Republican sources.”
In April 2018 UA professors and activists laid bare the Koch Brothers’ agenda to use Arizona’s universities to advance their anti-worker, anti-consumer and anti-public school agenda. At least 150 people attended “Dark Money, Charles Koch, and the UA Freedom Center” at the Tucson UA campus in April.
The speakers called on University to rigorously scrutinize the so-called “Freedom Center,” and called on Koch-funded Gov. Ducey to end the unique $2.5 million budget line-items especially for the Freedom Center.
“Arizona parents are regarded as consumers”
Garcia was the director of Research and Policy for the Arizona Department of Education for Republican Superintendent of Public Instruction Lisa Graham Keegan while she was setting up Arizona’s charter school system. As a legislator, Keegan was the prime sponsor of Arizona’s charter school laws, some of the most comprehensive charter school laws in the country.
Garcia writes on pp. 36-37: “Charter schools represent a major advancement in school choice policy due to the speed in which policymakers embraced charter school laws, the rapid growth of these schools, and student enrollment, and because in a few states, there are a sufficient number of charter schools to constitute a viable alternative sector of public schools. Arizona, for example, is home to over six hundred charter schools, representing 30 percent of all public schools and 17 percent of all public school students.”
Garcia writes: “Arizona has a strong charter school law, and these schools are positioned as competitors to traditional public schools. Policymakers leveraged charter school expansion to encourage an education marketplace by removing barriers to new charter school start-ups, empowering authorizing bodies to approve charter schools in any school district in the state without the permission of local school districts, exempting charter schools from most state requirements, including the requirement to hire certified teachers, and awarding organizations fifteen-year contracts to operate charter schools, the lengthiest such contracts in the country.”
Garcia even says on page 46, “Finally, there are indications that students who participate in the Arizona ESA program were enrolled in school districts with higher percentages of white students and wealthier than the general student population.”
Friedman: No school if you can’t pay
Starting on page 15, Garcia’s book lays out the thinking of Milton Friedman, an economist who first proposed universal school vouchers in 1955.
Gibbs says: “The book ignores damning findings by author Nancy MacLean, which she found in his private communications in 1959. What Friedman said he would really like to do is privatize education completely so that people would have to pay for the full cost of education. If you can’t afford it you can’t go to school.”
“The book doesn’t mention that,” Gibbs said. MacLean is the author of the bestseller Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America.
“There is a hidden agenda in Garcia’s book of a generalized removal of public engagement of public education, as shown in the private statements by Milton Friedman. The fact that Garcia doesn’t even discuss these things strikes me an error by omission.”
Garcia writes that “The core of Friedman’s universal voucher proposal is to improve the delivery of services through choice and competition,” on page 21.
“Vouchers changed the role of government from funding and providing education to funding and approving educational providers,” Garcia writes on page 22. “In other words, state government would still fund education, but it was no longer the primary entity responsible for providing public education. Rather, this responsibility could be filled by many other institutions, organizations, or enterprises,” Garcia writes.
Gibbs says: “From standpoint of the Koch brothers, they want to make their agenda bipartisan so that whatever party wins, their agenda is still implemented. The effect of the book is to normalize and make sound reasonable the idea of vouchers and charter schools in the Democratic party. It’s not enough that we have the Republicans Party advocating for these things.”
“States also look to other states for new ideas on school choice policies,” Garcia writes on page 172. “For example, given the favorable court rulings on ESAs, states looking to expand school choice policies aggressively are likely to pursue ESA programs over school vouchers. These states will watch how ESA programs play out in leading states such as Arizona.”