PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey pushed in-person learning during his State of the State address Monday, saying he believes children are most safe in the classroom.
Ducey delivered his seventh and shortest state-of-the-state address since becoming governor in 2015.
In Ducey's speech, he praised the resourcefulness of teachers and parents to continue educating, but said that it is now time to get 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.
"The part that stood out to me the most was the part about not funding empty seats, which to me was a pretty big slap in the face for teachers who have been working from home, teaching from home...." - @Supt_Hoffman on @dougducey's #StateOfTheState— Danielle Lerner (@DanielleLerner) January 11, 2021
The governor's speech comes on the same day that hundreds of teachers in the Peoria Unified School District staged a "sickout" to protest returning to in-person learning amid another rise in COVID-19 cases. The move forced the district to close 13 schools for the day.
When asked what the governor meant by saying he would not fund "empty seats," spokesman CJ Karamargin sent the following statement to ABC15:
"Governor Ducey supports virtual options for those parents who want them, and he is not considering cutting funding for virtual students. When he references not funding 'empty seats,' he simply means that for parents who have chosen a new option for their kids, the money will follow that student to their new public school. And with the vaccine now here, teachers are being vaccinated with high priority. Any student who wants to be in a classroom should have that opportunity."
State Superintendent of Public Instruction, Kathy Hoffman, says Governor Ducey's address "ignored the reality of the worsening spread of COVID-19 and its severe impact on our schools, students, and teachers."
Monday was the first day of the Group 1B vaccination efforts in Maricopa County, which includes teachers. However, not everyone in Phase 1A has been vaccinated yet, so it's important to note that those included in 1A are still at the top of the priority list and may also be signing up for future appointments.