GOP Gov. Doug Ducey of Arizona made a preemptive move on 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 at or below 350 percent of the federal poverty level can apply, KNXV-TV reported.
The funds are coming from federal coronavirus relief money.
The move comes as over 5,200 schools have taken actions to disrupt in-person learning in light of the surging omicron variant, including those in the Chicago public school system, according to Burbio’s classroom opening tracker.
The latest surge is producing significantly fewer hospitalizations and deaths than last January’s spike in COVID-19 cases.
On Thursday, Ducey told Fox News host Harris Faulkner that “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 hurt kids, citing learning, socialization and mental health issues that have arisen 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. The groups said the country’s children and adolescents are facing a “mental health state of emergency” fueled by pandemic shutdowns.
The governor’s office also quoted a New York Times piece that 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.
Faulkner responded, “I’m calling what you’re doing the kryptonite to the teachers union.”
“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.”
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
A version of this article originally appeared on Patriot Project.
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