Legislators approve elective credits for student activities & prevent school COVID vaccination requirement - AZEdNews
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Legislators approve elective credits for student activities & prevent school COVID vaccination requirement

House Education Chair Michelle Udall Discusses A Bill That Would Let High School Students Receive Elective Credits For Specific Activities During The House Floor Session On Monday, May 16, 2022. Photo Courtesy Arizona Capitol Television

Arizona Legislators approved a bill this week that would allow students to receive high school elective credits for specific activities and another that would prevent schools and the Arizona Department of Health Services from requiring students to get COVID-19 vaccinations to attend public school.

Legislators gave a do pass recommendation to Senate Bill 1326, sponsored by sponsored by Sen. T.J. Shope, would allow students to receive up to two high school elective credits for working at a job for at least five hours a week during a semester, participating in sports, project-based learning, STEM clubs, internships and apprenticeships, music lessons, community theater and community arts, and passing a course at a university, community college or private post-secondary institution that is approved by the school’s governing board.

The House also approved House Education Committee Chair Michelle Udall’s floor amendment to SB 1326 that removes the ability to count sports for elective credit, requires that a student must request to receive elective credit before the beginning of the semester, have parental permission and the school approved the requested activity as an elective course.

Arizona Capitol Television: House Floor Session Committee of the Whole 5/16/22

“This includes a sunset provision for 2025, it includes some kind of technical corrections and some fixes on some of the language,” said House Education Chair Udall, during the Committee of the Whole on Monday, May 16, 2022.

Rep. Judy Schwiebert said, “I’m just wondering what the problem is that we’re trying to solve with this bill. I haven’t heard any requests from families or students or schools. The only ones that I saw pushing for this bill were private groups like yes. every kid, so I think we need to prioritize what it is that our families and teachers and education experts want here.” 

“One of my concerns on it is that public school class sizes and curriculum are required to meet certain rigorous requirements and academic standards and people teaching them must meet certain education and safety requirements, but there’s really nothing in the bill that addresses those requirements or requires the same or even similar standards,” Rep. Schwiebert said.

“I’m also really concerned on the impact this will have on the availability of arts classes for our students,” Rep. Schwiebert said.

“When we’re giving school credit for these out-of-school activities, that can undercut enrollment in the elective arts, music and other classes and when enrollment goes down, classes get cut, and that means that children whose families can’t afford or aren’t aware of those kinds of lessons or clubs, don’t get even exposed to the arts or other electives offered in their schools at all,” Rep. Schwiebert said.

“I think one of the great things about public schools is the opportunity for yes, every kid to get a taste of different electives they might wind up loving. This just feels to me like one more attack that’s just trying to chip, chip away from every corner of the great opportunities public schools provide for our students and families,” Rep. Schwiebert said.

Rep. Jennifer Pawlik said she’s never had a student or parent contact her about not being able to get elective credits for graduation at their public high school.

“I also wanted to point out that the Arizona Progress Meter is looking at a number of other different indicators that we know we need to be achieving, and none of those indicators are connected to elective credits at all. Instead they’re looking at early learning, third grade reading, eighth grade math, high school graduation, opportunity youth, post-high school enrollment and then attainment of higher education degrees,” Rep. Pawlik said.

“Lastly, by removing the State Board of Education it’s concerning, because some districts might approve these courses while others might not,” Rep. Pawlik said as she urged her colleagues to vote no on the bill. “We’re setting up another situation where it’s not even across the board.”

“The biggest thing that bothers me about this bill is that I believe it will help students whose parents have the money to pay for these extracurricular activities, and it sort of hurts the public school experience in a way,”  said Rep. Pamela Powers-Hannley.

House Speaker Rusty Bowers asked House Education Chair Udall what she thought of these concerns expressed by her fellow legislators.

In response to comments, House Education Chair Udall said, “This program is voluntary. It allows parents to voluntarily send their children to a program they believe will benefit their children and it allows the schools to decide which ones they’re going to accept as credits for electives.” “Students can only get I think it was two credits this way for their entire high school career, so we’re not seeing anything that’s going to greatly limit the electives that students are taking at school or in any way limit the funding for those schools,” House Education Chair Udall said.

“It would seem to me that it would augment or amplifly the opportunities kids could have in their school experience,” House Speaker Bowers said.

“Students can do a lot of things out of school that will prepare them for their later life, and some of those are especially available to everyone. They can work at a job, which will definitely help them gain experience. They can do an internship. They can be involved in community theater. They can do some of those club sports and those kind of things as well,” House Education Chair Udall said.

The bill received a do pass recommendation on a voice vote.

Bill prevents COVID-19 vaccination requirement for students

The Arizona Senate gave a do pass recommendation during Third Reading on Tuesday to House Bill 2086, sponsored by Rep. Joanne Osborne, would prevent the Arizona Department of Health Services and public schools from requiring students be vaccinated for COVID-19 and human papillomavirus to attend public schools.

Arizona Capitol Television: Senate Floor Session Third Reading – 5/17/2022

Democratic Legislators voted against HB 2086, with Sen. Raquel Terán saying that adding a new vaccine to the state list of immunizations required to attend public schools is an 18-month long public process and economic impact evaluation.

“The purpose behind the vaccine requirement is to keep kids in school, keep them healthy and stop outbreaks,” Rep. Terán said as she explained her vote against the bill. “With herd immunity the goal is to protect enough people that surround the most vulnerable so that they indirectly prevent those people from getting sick.”

“In addition to this, Arizona already has some of the most permissive laws governing vaccines and school attendance in the country,” Rep. Terán said. “We allow parents to opt out of any childhood vaccinations under personal belief or religious beliefs or medical exceptions. They can fill out a simple form to waive any existing vaccine requirement. So members I really would ask everyone to look into this and reconsider your vote. This is not a necessary proposal.”

Sen. Christine Marsh said, “Please, please keep in mind all of the medically fragile students we have in this state. Kids who maybe are not even going to make it to adulthood, and I think that to do anything to undermine their potential, their ability to go to school, I think is foolish. It’s foolhardy. I think we should follow the medical professionals on this. The American Academy of Pediatrics is opposed to this as is the Arizona Academy of Family Physicians.”

Then Sen. Marsh voted no on the bill.

The bill received a do pass recommendation on a vote of 16 ayes, 12 nays and 2 not voting. The bill was sent to Gov. Doug Ducey for his signature.

In addition, Senators gave a do pass recommendation to House Bill 2025, sponsored by House Education Chair Michelle Udall, that would require public school governing boards to adopt policies allowing visits, tours and observations for parents of enrolled students and parents who would like to enroll their students unless the visit, tour or observation threatens the health and safety of students and staff.

HB 2025 also required these policies to be posted on the home page of each school’s website so the policy is easy to find.

“I understand the premise behind this bill. I’m going to vote yes. I think what would have made this bill a lot stronger is if we would have focused it solely on charter schools,” Sen. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton said.

“Our public (district) schools already have visitation policies in place. I have always had access to my children in their classrooms and access to their teachers,” Sen. Stahl Hamilton said.

“I do think that there has been some differences within the charter schools. I appreciate the fact that the charter schools are here. It’s a necessary step forward,” Sen. Stahl Hamilton said.

The bill received a do pass recommendation on a vote of 26 ayes, 2 nays and 2 not voting. The bill also was sent to Gov. Doug Ducey for his signature.