PHOENIX - Private school vouchers for anti-mask parents have run out of money but Arizona Governor Doug Ducey says more money is coming to the controversial program that may impact many public schools in the state.
With COVID-19 cases on the rise, kids are well underway into the school year, with some schools not enacting mask mandates.
In response to the question, if schools are safe as cases rise, Ducey said, "This is a contagious disease, OK. It’s highly transmissible. We want people to be responsible. We want them to follow the guidelines."
Later this month, schools will be prevented by law from having mask mandates in effect, and Ducey announced there would be more funding for schools without mandates.
"Letting dollars flow into schools that follow the law and we’ll continue to do it," he said.
Demand has exceeded the dollars for a program the governor created to give private school vouchers to parents that don’t want their kids in a school with a mask mandate. The program is out of money but an unknown amount will be added to it, according to Ducey.
"I’m a big fan of the educational savings account and of parental choice, our kids need to get caught up and in a place of learning that isn’t playing games but is actually paying attention to their communication skills, analytical skills. So I want to do everything I can with dollars available to get kids caught up," Ducey said.
For kids that do head to a private school, he was uncommitted on whether or not they’d be allowed to stay there next year.
"To be determined," Ducey answered.
Unemployment in Arizona
Ducey also spoke on the state's unemployment rate as the state makes a comeback from the pandemic, saying unemployment is high because people are so excited to move here they do it without a job.
Tens of thousands of Arizonans remain on unemployment while applying for jobs every day.
Speaking in person at the Arizona Commerce Authority for the first time in a year, Ducey says Arizona is a top five economy within in the last year. But not all numbers are positive.
The state’s unemployment rate is a full percentage higher than the national average, but he says to focus on who didn’t lose their job.
"How much of Arizona’s economic workforce was able to stay employed through the pandemic is a reflection of the balanced approach we took," he remarked.
Tens of thousands remain unemployed in Arizona and now have lost unemployment checks – an eviction moratorium has also ended.
Ducey stripped a $300 weekly federal unemployment enhancement since July and instead offered a return to work bonus for those that do get a job. An activist group is now suing for the weekly money to be retroactively paid.
"Let’s let the legal process play out," said of the lawsuit.
Ducey was asked about the return to work bonus as so far, just over a hundred people got the money – although tens of thousands have returned to work.
"What I would say is, look at Arizona's economy. We’re a top 3 economy across the country in terms of economic momentum, personal income growth and in net migration and I think those are all signs of health for the state of Arizona."
The Department of Economic Security says the reason so few have gotten the return to work bonus is because you have to work 10 weeks to get it, so many don’t qualify yet.
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