Ducey announces $7K grants to AZ families to ensure ‘access to in-person learning’ amid school closings

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The concept of benevolent politicians being free with money that doesn’t come from their own pockets isn’t limited to just one party, as seen in the actions of Arizona’s Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.

Then again, is there too great a price to pay when it comes to looking out for the best interests of our children, who represent the nation’s future?

In what his office described as a “preemptive action to ensure in-person learning remains an option for all Arizona families and students,” Ducey introduced a program that grant families up to $7,000 to overcome “financial and educational barriers due to unexpected school closures,” according to a press release from the governor’s office. The grants are “for needs related to Arizona Department of Economic Security- approved child care, school-coordinated transportation, online tutoring and school tuition.”

“In Arizona, we’re going to ensure continued access to in-person learning,” Ducey said. “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.”

“In-person learning is vital for the development, well-being and educational needs of K-12 students,” the governor continued. “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.”

Amid the ongoing COVID-19 surge driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant, the release noted that both President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona recently expressed support for schools remaining open following the holiday break.

“Today, we know more and we have more resources to keep schools open… we don’t have to shut down schools because of a case of COVID-19,” Biden is quoted as saying. “Now, if a student tests positive, other students can take the test and stay in the classroom if they’re not infected rather than closing the whole school or having to quarantine. We can keep our K-12 schools open, and that’s exactly what we should be doing.”

Cardona is also quoted: “To the delight of students, parents and teachers, kids are chatting in the hallways, working together on projects, and participating in extracurricular activities. We must make sure these pursuits continue for the rest of the school year. The goal remains to keep all schools open for in-person learning five days a week throughout the 2021-22 school year and beyond—let’s make this goal a reality!”

At the same time, the community event website Burbio’s public school opening tracker shows that more than 3,200 schools across the country are closed this week.

Randi Weingarten, head of the second-largest teachers union in the country, the American Federation of Teachers, essentially backtracked from previous claims about wanting to keep schools open in a tweet Monday:

“There are very real logistical decisions schools are making,” Weingarten tweeted. “We know kids do better in person, but the spike is real. We need adequate staff & the safety measures in place including testing, masking ventilation. There is a lot of stress.”

Studies have shown that extended school closures last year did little to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and that the lack of in-person learning was detrimental to the growth and development of students.

The release from Ducey’s office included a reference to EdWeek reporting that recent CDC data shows that “between March and October of 2020, [mental health emergency visits] increased 24 percent for children ages 5 to 11, and 31 percent for kids ages 12-17. There was also a more than 50 percent spike in visits for suspected suicide attempts among girls ages 12 to 17 in early 2021, compared to the same period in 2019.”

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