Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, announced that the Grand Canyon state will offer at least $7,000 in school tuition vouchers if public schools close and go to remote classes. Ducey appeared on Fox News to make the announcement, and told Fox News host Harris Faulkner, “Arizona children are in school, and Arizona children are going to stay in their classroom.”
“We’re not going to let the thugs play Chicago-like games in Arizona,” Ducey asserted. The governor added, “We want to empower our families, we want to empower our students, not these systems that have been hurting our kids.”
Ducey’s reference to Chicago stemmed from recent actions of the Chicago Teachers Union, which went on strike and ultimately stopped in-person classes from happening in the Chicago Public Schools district after the winter break.
Calling it a “preemptive action,” the governor’s office’s press release said that this Open for Learning Recovery Benefit program is “consistent with guidance from public health experts.” It noted that the program is supposed to “provide relief for parents who may face financial and educational barriers due to unexpected school closures.” It also claimed that the funds per family are up to $7,000 and can cover state-approved child care, school-coordinated transportation, online tutoring and school tuition.
The fund is used when a school closes, even for a single day, and applies to families who meet income requirements. The program is also supposed to have enough flexibility to be tailored to a student’s education needs. The governor said, “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 term-limited governor, whose second and final term expires in 2022, stated that Arizona is “going to ensure continued access to in-person learning.”
Arizona public schools, to their credit or due to both parental and political pressure, have mostly remained open during the pandemic. But, with new coronavirus variants making the news and creating fear among media consumers, Ducey’s announcement applied pressure to public schools to remain open for in-person classes.
Interestingly enough, the program is not a taxpayer-funded bailout of any sort. It is the reapportionment of tax dollars into school tuition vouchers, which is a similar form of the popular school voucher program in pro-school choice states like Arizona.
But Ducey’s actions to support parents and students were a stark contrast to Chicago’s unionized teachers, who chose to skip teaching classes instead of doing their job.