PHOENIX - Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday announced a new program that will give qualifying families who are struggling with unexpected school closures up to $7,000 for children's educational needs.
The funding would go toward childcare, transportation, tutoring and school tuition needs approval by the Arizona Department of Economic Security, according to a press release from the governor's office.
"Every state should follow Arizona's lead," Corey DeAngelis, national director of research at School Choice Now, told Fox News. "If a Safeway doesn't reopen, families can take their money elsewhere. If a school doesn't reopen, families should be able to take their children's education dollars elsewhere. In fact, families should be able to take their children's education dollars elsewhere regardless. Education funding is meant for educating children, not for protecting a particular institution."
He added that funding "students, not systems…is the only way out of this mess."
"Funding students directly and empowering families to find alternatives gives schools an incentive to cater to their needs," he continued. "This kind of bottom-up accountability, allowing families to vote with their feet, is the strongest form of accountability that exists. This move is a step in the right direction towards freeing families from the clutches of the teachers unions once and for all."
The Open for Learning Recovery Benefit Program will allow students to "access instruction that best meets their needs" if they meet certain income requirements.
"In Arizona, we’re going to ensure continued access to in-person learning," Ducey said in a Tuesday statement. "Everyone agrees that schools should stay open and kids need to be in the classroom. With this announcement, we are making sure parents and families have options if a school closes its doors. Parents are best suited to make decisions about their child’s education."
He added that "in-person learning is vital for the development, well-being and educational needs of K-12 students," and city leaders will work with school leaders to ensure children "can stay in the classroom and parents have a choice — always."
Duecy introduced a plan to reopen Arizona schools in March of 2021.
President Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, as well as health experts from the American Academy of Pediatrics, are pushing for in-person learning after the holidays, but more than 3,200 schools are closed this week, according to a public school opening tracker from community event website Burbio. Some teachers unions are pushing for a return to remote learning, citing a lack of testing and personal protective equipment.
While cases have spiked, deaths from the disease have fallen by more than half. Jan. 13, 2021, saw the greatest number of COVID-related deaths since the pandemic began with nearly 4,050 deaths reported that day. The seven-day average hovered around 3,400 deaths per day. But as of Dec. 29, the last time the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its trending data, the nationwide average was reported at just under 1,100 deaths per day.
A January 2021 report from CDC researchers published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) noted that as schools reopened for in-person instruction, "school-related cases of COVID-19 have been reported, but there has been little evidence that schools have contributed meaningfully to increased community transmission."
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