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.
In an apparent response to the push from teachers’ unions to revert to remote learning for at least two weeks if not more, Governor Doug Ducey announced Monday that all of Arizona would continue with in-person learning.
In a thread, Ducey reminded Arizonans of President Joe Biden’s stance on keeping schools open, as well as the past actions of unions striking for higher pay after being promised higher pay. For the latter reference, Ducey was citing his promise of a 20 percent raise.
“IN-PERSON LEARNING WILL CONTINUE IN ARIZONA[.] ‘The science is clear, and overwhelming. We know how to keep our kids safe from COVID-19 in school. K through 12 schools should be open.’ That’s from President Joe Biden. And public health experts agree. Yet union leaders are telling parents to prepare for remote learning. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, this is the same union that encouraged a teacher strike well after a teacher raise was proposed. Once again, teacher unions are playing political games with no regard for the social and emotional impact on our kids. Parents shouldn’t stand for it — and will remember these antics at the ballot box. And at the state level, we’ll be working to ensure in-person learning continues. From recruiting more substitute teachers, to ensuring that if a student is turned away for even one day of in-person learning, parents have a choice and the resources to take their child to a school that better meets their needs.”
Twitter tagged the following warning to the governor’s thread: “Some conversations get heavy[;] Don’t forget the human behind the screen.”
Ducey issued a similar Twitter thread announcement last March several weeks before the one-year anniversary of COVID-19 being announced as a national emergency. That thread announced Ducey’s executive order for all schools to continue March 15 — several days after the one-year anniversary of former President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration.
“ANNOUNCEMENT: Getting kids back in the classroom is one of the most important things we can do as we see #COVID19 cases drop and vaccinations underway. A majority of Arizona public schools are already open, and school leaders have demonstrated in-person instruction is possible to do safely. The @CDCgov has laid out a path for every school to open safely. Public health experts nationally have spoken about the importance of getting kids back in school. In Arizona, teachers have been prioritized for the vaccine, and many school districts are reporting that nearly all of their educators have received both doses. Today, I’m issuing a new Executive Order. It requires public schools to get back to teacher-led, in-person instruction by March 15, or after Spring Break. I know not every parent feels comfortable sending their kids back to school. So virtual learning will continue to be an option for those families. But many do want to go back, and this will require schools to provide that opportunity. The science is clear, and so are the social and behavioral impacts. It’s time to get kids back in the classroom. I’m confident that Arizona has made better progress on this to date than many other states, and today’s action will speed up that process even more.”
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) at the time of this report, there have been 1861 reported workplace fatalities from COVID-19. OSHA issued an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) requiring employers to report employees that were hospitalized or died from COVID-19, “regardless of the amount of time between the exposure to COVID-19 in the work environment and the death or in-patient hospitalization.
These OSHA reports are given within eight hours of a fatality, or 24 hours of a hospitalization.
According to the latest counts, there have been over 24,300 deaths related to COVID-19 in Arizona. In the last six months, a total of over 6,300 deaths have occurred. Nearly 72 percent of deaths occurred in individuals over 65 years old. Nearly 16 percent of deaths occurred in individuals aged 55 to 64 years old.
Nearly 8 percent of deaths came from individuals aged 45 to 54 years old. 5 percent of deaths came from individuals 20 to 44 years old. Nearly 0 percent of deaths occurred in individuals under the age of 20: .2 percent, to be exact.