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Press Release

Schools Could Remain Open if Governor Would Support Them

On, January 10, 2022, Governor Ducey had an opportunity in his state of the state address to outline a plan for safely keeping our public schools open during rising cases of COVID-19 due to the Omicron surge. Instead, he ignored the effects the pandemic is having on educators and parents and focused on private school voucher schemes that drain money from our already strained public education infrastructures.
Published: 01/10/2022

“Educators want to be in the classroom. Parents want their kids in the classroom. Students want to be in the classroom,” says AEA President Joe Thomas. “Everyone wants to be in the classroom, but we need funding for the tools and strategies to continue to ensure that happens. It is important that we work collaboratively to ensure safety measures like vaccinations, masks, test to stay and proper ventilation are in place to keep our students, educators, and all their families safe.”

The reality is that we are going through a pandemic and there have been real stresses, severe staff shortages (which are due to decades of chronic underfunding that have been exacerbated by the pandemic), and everyone is experiencing trauma. If these issues aren’t addressed in a fundamental and systemic way, then we are going to see an exodus of the profession, and our students will suffer the most.

We can control the proven safety measures needed to keep schools open. What we cannot control is the sheer number of educators that are now sick from the rapid rise of Omicron. Governor Ducey made no mention of Omicron or the fact that many schools and districts are dealing with critical shortages in staff – whether due to positive COVID cases, necessary quarantine protocols and restrictions, and/or inability to fill positions - and there are not enough adults to safely operate buildings for in-person learning.

“Educators know how important it is to remain flexible in responding to unprecedented and rapidly changing circumstances – we have shown up every day the past two years, adapting and innovating the ways we teach and interact with our students,” says Thomas. “Educators are always showing up for their students – but we need the support and infrastructure to do what we love most. Whether it’s broken HVAC systems or rapid test shortages – we're asking for the resources needed to make in-person learning safe.”

Governor Ducey made no recognition of educators' efforts during the pandemic or mention of the unnecessary funding cap our public schools are facing. Instead, he downplayed the importance of COVID-19 mitigation strategies, touted policies that threaten public education funding like private school vouchers, and played politics with school curriculum.

Parents and teachers want to give kids the best education they can. They want kids to learn and grow. A great public school education includes art and music, math and science, and history and literature. But now Governor Ducey wants to limit what history our kids can learn about and what books they can read. We should trust educators and parents—not politicians—to ensure our kids get the best education possible.

“The governor is setting up our teachers and public schools to fail,” says Thomas. “First he blocks schools’ efforts to enact basic health protections like universal masking in order to remain open, then he punishes them for not being able to remain open without support from the state by siphoning off public school dollars to private school vouchers.”

Arizona educators need support from our state’s leaders at a time when their morale is low and staff shortages are high. We need a leader who will put public education, the number one priority of voters, first. We need a governor and legislature who will ensure permanent, sustainable education funding to address our state’s teacher shortage, otherwise we will continue to see good teachers leaving the classroom to the detriment of our students.

 

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Keeping the Promise of Quality Public Education

With more than 20,000 members, the Arizona Education Association (AEA) is the largest professional association for public school employees in Arizona. AEA members are teachers, community college professors, counselors, speech pathologists, bus drivers, secretaries, retired educators and student teachers and they belong to more than 150 local affiliates across Arizona.