Video: Gov. says students should be in classroom in State of the State - AZEdNews
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Video: Gov. says students should be in classroom in State of the State

Gov. Doug Ducey Gives His 2021 Arizona State Of The State Address Virtually On Jan. 11, 2021. Photo Courtesy Office Of The Arizona Governor

2 p.m.: Gov. Doug Ducey said students need to be back in the classroom, broadband access should be expanded, there may be more tax cuts this year and details of his proposed budget will be released later this week during his 2021 Arizona State of the State Address at 2 p.m. today.

“We would have preferred our usual State of the State proceedings, but like so many other recent plans, It wasn’t in the cards,” Gov. Ducey said. “What we’ve lost in ceremony, we’ve gained in citizen engagement.”

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey Delivers the 2021 Arizona State Of The State Address

Click here for a transcript of Gov. Ducey’s State of the State Address

Attack on the U.S. Capitol

Gov. Ducey said his meeting with leaders of the Arizona Legislature “was in stark contrast to the violent and destructive rioting at our nation’s capitol just two days prior.”

“It was a sickening day in Washington, D.C., that no American will ever forget,” Gov. Ducey said. “In the United States of America, violence and vandalism have no place in the people’s house. Perpetrators should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Let us condemn it and resolve that it never happens again.”

“With that in mind, this year let us treat each other as one of our nation’s greatest presidents Abraham Lincoln suggested with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in,” Ducey said.

“And Arizona will do it’s part to bind up the nation’s wounds. Here we will conduct ourselves with integrity and respect for each other and for the United State’s Constitution,” Gov. Ducey said.

Response to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic remains the most significant threat Arizonans face. Gov. Ducey said.

“The risk is still serious, and so is the pressure on our hospitals and medical personnel,” Gov. Ducey said.

COVID-19 has taken more than 10,000 Arizonan’s lives “and left nothing but grief in it’s path,” Gov. Ducey said.

Gov. Ducey encouraged Arizonans to get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is their turn.

“We need to work faster, so now even more resources will be brought to the fore,” Gov. Ducey said. “At my direction, the state has launched a 24/7 vaccination site at a large and notable location, State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals.”

“Everyone needs this vaccine and the sooner we receive it the more quickly we can get on with life as it should be,” Gov. Ducey said.

K-12 Education

Gov. Ducey said he knows many Arizonans are concerned about their kids and their jobs then spoke about K-12 education.

“It’s been a small mercy in this pandemic that the virus is least likely to harm our children although there are exceptions,” Gov. Ducey said. “Of course, their teachers are a different matter, and that’s why we’re making sure teachers receive the vaccine as quickly as possible.”

“Across our state, students have been kept out of their classrooms for long enough,” Gov. Ducey said. “They’ve lost out on childhood experiences that can’t be duplicated on a computer screen.”

“In strange, difficult circumstances, parents and teachers have done their resourceful best, but it’s time to get our students back where they belong” Gov. Ducey said.

With health officials saying the safest place for students 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,” Gov. Ducey said.

Gov. Ducey also said as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic many parents have found temporary educational options they want to make permanent, and public policy should reflect that and “empower them to make that choice.”

Many students have fallen behind in their learning and missed out on so much, “so let’s put our resources on getting them caught up,” Gov. Ducey said.

“Before COVID, we had an achievement gap in our schools, and it’s only gotten worse,” Gov. Ducey said, noting it was detailed in a report released last week that showed it fell along economic and racial lines.

“Distance learning has not been good for these students, who often don’t have Wi-Fi or a laptop available,” Gov. Ducey said. “Starting now, let’s direct resources to helping these children catch up – summer school, longer school days, 1-on-1 targeted instruction, tutoring.”

Related articles:
Transcript of Gov. Ducey’s 2021 State of the State Address
Why distance learning hurts schools’ budgets
What lower than expected Enrollment Stabilization Grant funding means for schools

In response to the Governor’s speech, Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said, “The Governor’s State of the State speech ignored the reality of the worsening spread of COVID-19 and its severe impact on our schools, students and teachers.”

“In the face of enormous hardship and loss, teachers and schools have gone above and beyond to ensure students learning continues amid school facility closures,” Supt. Hofffman said.

“To say otherwise – without a commitment to fund distance learning – contributes to the toxic environment where teachers, board members, and superintendents are harassed for making data-driven decisions,” Supt Hoffman said.

“The harsh reality is that students and teachers cannot safely return to in-person learning while Arizona sits as one of the worst COVID-19 hotspots in the world,” Supt. Hoffman said.

For decades Arizona’s leaders have underfunded public education, said the Arizona Education Association in response to the Governor’s speech.

“Arizona is suffering a teacher shortage, our school buildings are crumbling, and our textbooks and technology are outdated. The pandemic has only made these problems worse. Today’s State of the State Address does not offer hope that the governor will provide any real solutions,” Arizona Education Association said in a statement.

“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,” said Joe Thomas, president of Arizona Education Association.

“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<” Thomas said.

“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,” Thomas said.

“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,” Thomas said. “Instead, we have a governor promising more unnecessary tax cuts. Governor Ducey needs to follow the will of the people and invest in education.”

Arizona’s school boards and educators have risen to the challenge of providing an education to the students in their charge despite the enormous difficulties presented by COVID-19, said Heidi Vega, director of communications for Arizona School Boards Association, in response to Gov. Ducey’s speech.

School boards in particular have endured months of public tension over whether, how and when to resume in-person instruction. These decisions are gut-wrenching for board members and they play out with each new spike in COVID cases, Vega said in the statement.

“The implication by Gov. Ducey in his State of the State Address today that schools have not been open and are not educating children during this pandemic, and the implicit assumption of bad faith on the part of public schools it entails is frankly hurtful and disrespectful to the public servants who have been working to overcome the very real obstacles that exist to provide a quality education to all students even in the best of times,” Vega said.

Governor Ducey is correct to acknowledge that an achievement gap exists, and that it often falls “squarely on economic and racial lines.” He is correct that access to high-speed Internet compounds those difficulties. This was true before COVID, and educators do worry that it is getting worse. ASBA has made correcting these inequities a central tenet of its work and we are glad the governor recognizes its importance. ASBA welcomes any additional resources that the governor is proposing to help address them.

Arizona’s district public schools, even in the midst of the pandemic, educate the vast majority of Arizona’s students. District public schools are the core of the public education system. Without them, no other options are tenable, ASBA states.

“Discussions about funding district schools are not about ‘funding empty seats,’ they are about preserving the system for the post-pandemic future,” Vega said.

Time and again, the voters have proven that they value high quality public district schools. This crisis should not be used to undermine them by instituting policies they have soundly rejected at the ballot box, ASBA states.

The challenges of funding distance learning are an opportunity to engage in a sincere dialogue about how to fund students who may, even after the pandemic, benefit from a combination of in-person and distance learning, Vega said.

Getting students back in school is a shared goal. However doing so will require strong leadership and coordination between branches of government. Schools are centers of community, meaning that what is in the community is carried into the school, and vice versa. Especially infectious disease. Even after school staff are vaccinated, partnership and close coordination between the state, counties and school districts will be required to make sure that we can maintain a safe environment for students and do our part to keep the community safe, ASBA states.

Education, at every level, is key to Arizona’s recovery, but let’s be clear, the goal is not to get back to “normal,” said Christine M. Thompson, president and CEO of Expect More Arizona, in response to Gov. Ducey’s State of the State Address.

“Normal wasn’t good enough before, and it certainly won’t be sufficient moving forward,” Thompson said.

“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,” Thompson said.

“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,” Thompson said.

“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,” Thompson said.

9 a.m.: The Arizona Legislature starts its legislative session today and Gov. Doug Ducey will deliver his State of the State address virtually at 2 p.m. today. Watch it live here later today.

Usually, Gov. Ducey addresses the Arizona Legislature in person, but he has decided to address the session virtually due to the surge in COVID-19 cases in Phoenix and in the state.

The governor’s State of the State address usually outlines his budget priorities and often introduces new initiatives for education and other departments for the legislative session.

Later this week, economists and analysts from the Governor’s Office will provide a detailed analysis of his proposed budget for K-12 education, higher education and other sectors.

This year, it’s expected Gov. Ducey will address the COVID-19 pandemic and economic relief as well as his K-12, higher education and other budget priorities.