By Terri Jo Neff |
In an effort to reassure students and parents, Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday that he is making up to $7,000 available for families who may face financial or educational barriers due to unexpected school closures.
Ducey described his new $10 million Open for Learning Recovery Benefit program as a “preemptive action” to ensure in-person learning remains an option for all K-12 students in Arizona. Funds can be used by eligible students and families toward childcare approved by the Arizona Department of Economic Security, as well as school-coordinated transportation, online tutoring, and school tuition.
“In-person learning is vital for the development, well-being and educational needs of K-12 students,” Ducey said. “With the new Open for Learning Recovery Benefit program, if a school closes for even one day, students and families who meet the income requirements will have access to instruction that best meets their needs.”
Families at or below 350 percent of the federal poverty line will be eligible to apply online for benefits later this month. Data shows such families are more likely to be negatively impacted by school closures due to limited daycare options, limited access to technology for remote learning, and less flexibility with work schedules.
The governor’s announcement of the new funding program came just days after some members of RedforEd, a teachers’ union / activist group, called on school districts to require students to utilize remote learning in place of in-person classroom instruction for the next few weeks, at a minimum. Ducey and many K-12 professionals have rejected the option, citing performance gaps and other harms brought on by school closures.
“We will continue to work with families, public health experts and school leaders to ensure our kids can stay in the classroom and parents have a choice – always.” Ducey said Tuesday.
The Open for Learning Recovery Benefit program is the latest effort by Ducey to show his seriousness toward requiring schools to resume teacher-led, in-person instruction. Since March 2021, various funding options have been made available by the state, including the Education Recovery Benefit program and the Education Plus Up Grant program announced in August to provide grant fundings for district and charter schools that kept their doors open and followed all state laws.
Another K-12 funding program implemented last year addressed K-12 literacy, adult education, and expanded teacher professional development. Monies were also set aside to promote after-school programs, to support school choice opportunities for students in rural communities, and to fund Arizona Transportation Modernization Grants to improve reliable and safe transportation options.