Doug Ducey

Education is a key issue in all state races this year, and the gubernatorial contest between Doug Ducey and David Garcia is no different.

Candidate after candidate has stressed not only its importance, but also how Arizona has failed to meet its obligation to properly fund public schools. After years of the Legislature short-changing public education, teachers finally had enough and the #RedForEd movement found the kind of public support that forces all of us to pay attention.

In this regard, Garcia, a Democrat, is unmatched. He has centered his campaign around the issue and promises not only to provide a dedicated funding source but to reform what public education looks like and improve student attainment. He is a charismatic and inspiring candidate whose dedication is as unquestionable as his goal is laudable.

Although we believe, as he does, that education touches nearly every other challenge the state is facing, from economic development to public safety, the Garcia campaign stumbles in recognizing that the answer to every question can’t be “education.”

After much discussion, the Star is endorsing Doug Ducey for Arizona governor.

Ducey, running for his second term, may not be the kind of firebrand on education that many believe is needed — but he has shepherded funding increases through the Republican Legislature.

He pushed for extending Proposition 301, which protects a more than $600 million funding stream for Arizona schools, and led on Proposition 123, settling a long-running lawsuit and providing an estimated $3.5 billion over 10 years to public education.

Ducey is a shrewd enough politician to recognize that throngs of Arizona teachers walking out of their classrooms and converging on the state Capitol, as thousands did last spring, required a response. Before the walkout, and the public support for teachers became vocal, Ducey had said Arizona couldn’t afford more than less than 2 percent in raises. That changed with the growing public demonstrations — and, Ducey said, better-than-expected financial revenue reports, which he credits to his economic policies.

If Ducey is to succeed in a second term, he would do well to reach out to the educators directly, instead of relying on school district administrators to provide insight into the best course of action for public education. He should also reconsider his support of using public funds for private schools.

Garcia is right to go back to education as a driver for economic development and the state’s well-being. But it’s not a quick fix or a universal remedy.

We agree with Garcia’s philosophy that improving the Arizona economy must include paying workers fair wages, providing high-speed internet access across the state, investing in solar energy and focusing on high-tech jobs. The question, however, is how the state can do those things in a near-term way, and Garcia didn’t offer an answer.

A recent report from the Office of Economic Opportunity placed Arizona’s annual job growth rate at 1.7 percent over the next decade, double the projected national rate, with population increasing by about a million people by 2026.

Even so, there is a feeling in Southern Arizona that while Phoenix thrives, our region is often ignored by the Maricopa County-centered state government.

Ducey acknowledges this but notes that not only is Southern Arizona doing better than it has in years, but a continued healthy state economy also will spread and diversify opportunities for the rest of the state. He points to the expansion of Raytheon and Comcast, and the arrival of Caterpillar to downtown Tucson, as important job opportunities that can be built upon.

To his credit, Ducey has visited our region much more often than his recent predecessors and recognizes that the connection with Mexico is vital to the state’s economy — particularly Southern Arizona's.

During his first term, he mended a relationship that had fractured after Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law. He also never missed a meeting of the Arizona-Mexico Commission, was the first governor in almost a decade to visit Mexico City and has developed a friendship with Sonoran Gov. Claudia Pavlovich.

Ducey has taken a walk-the-walk approach to child safety, encouraging adoption of children in foster care — when appropriate — and eschewing the notion that the only suitable adoptive parents are straight, heterosexual married couples. He should be recognized for that effort.

He also removed from state employment applications the question that required job-seekers to check “yes” if they’d been convicted of a crime . This is a positive step and allows Arizonans with records to make their cases individually, rather than eliminate any applicant with any sort of arrest record, no matter how long ago.

We do not agree with Doug Ducey on every issue. On balance, however, we think Ducey’s performance as governor merits another term.