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Arizona schools chief calls Ducey’s speech ‘disrespectful’ toward educators

(Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

PHOENIX – Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said she and other educators felt Gov. Doug Ducey’s State of the State address was “disrespectful” when it came to handling education and the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

“Teachers have been going above and beyond to try to reach their students, to engage them, to be innovative and to use new technology to make sure they’re providing our students with the highest possible quality of education,” Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos & Chad on Tuesday.

“For many educators, to hear that type of tone was disrespectful.”

Hoffman said the way Ducey brushed off the education dilemma made her feel like he’s not taking the pandemic seriously.

“We need to take COVID seriously and our schools cannot open for in-person instruction when Arizonans are dying by the thousands and there’s still this concern about the risk of substantial spread in our communities,” Hoffman said.

During Ducey’s annual State of the State address on Monday, he insisted that the state needs students back in classrooms, despite pleas from teachers and education leaders like Hoffman to learn virtually until coronavirus metrics decline in the state.

“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,” Ducey said in the speech.  “Children still need to learn, even in a pandemic.”

Hoffman noted that Ducey’s office later clarified what he meant, saying they wanted to use savings from school enrollment decline to shift funding to targeted support for remote learning, but she says that inadequate.

“They need to fully fund our schools in a way that has stability, that is year-to-year reliable funding for schools to pay for operations and for teacher salaries,” Hoffman said.

Teachers across the state have voiced concerns about teaching in-person as coronavirus cases continue to rise. As of Tuesday, Arizona has reported a total of 636,100 COVID-19 cases and 10,482 deaths since the start of the pandemic, and the daily numbers continue to exponentially increase.

Counties across the state have started to shift to phase 1B of coronavirus vaccine distribution, which includes educators. The widespread effects of vaccinated educators in the state will take time.

Hoffman added she was hoping Ducey would commit to fully funding students learning remotely and provide resources where they are most needed.

This year, a large number of school districts in the state, like Phoenix Union High School District, have opted for remote-only learning with the high number of coronavirus cases in the community.

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