GOP Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona made a preemptive move Tuesday to ensure that his state’s schoolchildren continue to have access to in-person learning.
“The Governor is creating the Open for Learning Recovery Benefit program to provide relief for parents who may face financial and educational barriers due to unexpected school closures,” his office said in a news release.
“The program funds up to $7,000 for needs related to Arizona Department of Economic Security- approved child care, school-coordinated transportation, online tutoring and school tuition.”
If schools close for even one day, families who meet the income requirements of being at or below 350 percent of the federal poverty level can apply, KNXV-TV reported.
The funds are coming from federal COVID relief money.
The move comes as over 5,200 schools have have taken actions to disrupt in-person learning in light of the COVID omicron variant surging in the country, the most prominent of which is the Chicago public school system, according to Burbio’s classroom opening tracker.
The latest surge is producing significantly less hospitalizations and deaths than last January’s spike in COVID cases.
On Thursday, Ducey told Fox News host Harris Faulkner, “Arizona kids are going to stay in their classroom and we’re not going to let the union thugs play Chicago-like games in Arizona.”
“So when they made that threat and they reached out to try to shut down our schools, we’re going to give our parents the financial flexibility to take their child to the school of their choice if a school shuts down for even one day,” the governor added.
Ducey argued that school closures have been hurting kids, citing learning, socialization and mental health issues that arise from schools being closed.
“Too much focus on masks, not enough focus on math,” he said.
In the news release, Ducey’s office cited a joint statement that The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Children’s Hospital Association issued in October, concluding the country is facing a “mental health state of emergency” for children and adolescents, fueled by the pandemic shutdowns.
The governor’s office quoted from a New York Times piece, which said “data now suggest that many changes to school routines are of questionable value in controlling the virus’s spread. Some researchers are skeptical that school closures reduce Covid cases in most instances. Other interventions, like forcing students to sit apart from their friends at lunch, may also have little benefit.”
“We need to get our kids caught up. We need to keep them back in the classroom and we need to support these families,” Ducey said.
“God bless the 10 percent of teachers in Chicago that showed up voluntarily yesterday,” the governor added. “Let’s get our good teachers back to the classroom.”
Faulkner responded, “I’m calling what you’re doing the kryptonite to the teachers union.”
As @HARRISFAULKNER put it, Arizona’s school choice actions are the “kryptonite” to the teachers unions. These unions are playing games with our children’s education. They aren’t following the science. Experts agree that kids should be in the classroom. @FaulknerFocus pic.twitter.com/i6VUZSlDYO
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) January 6, 2022
“These unions are playing games with our children’s education,” Ducey tweeted after the interview.
“They aren’t following the science. Experts agree that kids should be in the classroom.”