Gov. Ducey says students need to be back in school or districts will lose funding

Arizona's Governor on Monday, Jan. 11 expressed the need for students to head back into classrooms in his State of the State address, but it was soon met with criticism as it appears funding will be cut if schools continue distanced learning.

"In strange, difficult circumstances, parents and teachers have done their resourceful best. But it’s time to get our students back where they belong. With every public health professional, from Dr. Fauci and the CDC on down, saying that the safest place for kids to be is in school. We will not be funding empty seats or allowing schools to remain in a perpetual state of closure. Children still need to learn, even in a pandemic," Ducey said in his address, alluding to not providing funding for schools that continue with virtual learning.

Ducey's statement was met with mixed reactions from education leaders in the state.

Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman

Hoffman released a statement on Twitter saying Ducey not committing to funding distanced learning "contributes to the toxic environment where teachers, board members and superintendents are harassed for making data-driven decisions."

Read her full statement below, or click here

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman statement on Jan. 11

Great Leaders Strong Schools President and Founder Emily Anne Gullickson

"Every child in our state has felt the resounding impact of the COVID-19 crisis as it has upended our education system throughout the state. The inequities that existed prior to the pandemic have been exacerbated and we must do everything we can to help our students accelerate forward. Innovation is no longer optional; it is the only way we can face the challenges before us. We applaud Governor Doug Ducey for his leadership in prioritizing K-12 education, empowering families, and ensuring public policy keeps pace with proven community-driven models and new ways of learning that are creating meaningful change. We look forward to working with the Governor and the Legislature on policies that put Arizona students first."

Expect More Arizona President and CEO Christine M. Thompson

"Education, at every level, is key to Arizona’s recovery. But let’s be clear, the goal is not to get back to ‘normal’. Normal wasn’t good enough before, and it certainly won’t be sufficient moving forward. The goal of the 2021 legislative session should be to make policy and budget decisions that profoundly address both the short- and long-term needs of all students. To do so, it’s critical that Arizona’s leaders really listen to students, parents and educators so that policy and budget decisions can meaningfully address the disparate impacts of COVID, longstanding inequities, and other systemic barriers that inhibit low-income students, students of color, and other marginalized students from thriving. Addressing these issues will not only allow us to meet the goals of the Arizona Education Progress Meter, it will enable Arizona to meet our full potential."

Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas

"Educators want nothing more than to be back in classrooms with our students, but we need the governor to take action to make sure our communities are safe and to ensure safe and just schools.  Governor Doug Ducey’s State of the State Address is only providing more of the same failed leadership that has created the state’s largest teacher shortage and made Arizona number one in COVID-19 infection rates in the world. No student should have to sacrifice their health or safety in order to access a great public education. However, schools have adapted to the challenges of this virus, school systems must make sure each and every student has equitable access to the best possible learning experiences. Any discussions about addressing the opportunity loss for students from the pandemic must include educators if they are to be successful. Voters passed the Invest in Education Act because they want our students and educators to be successful. We need the governor to act now to provide the resources our students and educators need if we ever hope to return to safe in-person classroom instruction. Instead, we have a governor promising more unnecessary tax cuts. Governor Ducey needs to follow the will of the people and invest in education."

How Arizona schools have been handling the pandemic

Districts in Arizona have chosen one of three options when proceeding with learning during the COVID-19 outbreak. They've adopted a virtual-only model, in-person model or a hybrid model.

Some districts that continue with in-person learning have experienced staffing shortages, forcing them to close the school entirely for sometimes more than a day. Shortages are due to staff reportedly staging a "sickout."

After the holidays, it was called on state leadership to mandate all schools become virtual-only temporarily for two weeks to help slow the anticipated spike of COVID-19 cases. The governor rejected the request saying it's a decision that should be made on a city-by-city basis.

Ducey delivers 'State of the State' speech virtually

Ducey has traditionally used his address on the first day of the Legislative session to tout his successes and lay out his priorities for the budget and the coming year.