Arizona’s schools chief slams Ducey for limiting COVID mitigation policies
PHOENIX — Arizona’s schools chief didn’t mince words Wednesday criticizing Gov. Doug Ducey limiting the ability for schools in the state to enforce COVID-19 mitigation measures, including requiring face masks.
“You can tell that he’s not asking our school leaders what would help them have in-person instruction, he’s just making big political moves to get on national TV,” Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad.
She added the two haven’t been working closely because she can’t be associated with his poor decision making.
Ducey signed a state budget last month that included a provision preventing local jurisdictions, including school boards, from mandating face masks or vaccines as a condition of participating in in-person instruction.
The move came after Ducey rescinded an order in April that had directed K-12 public and charter schools to require face coverings, but allowed districts to mandate masks and enforce other policies to stop the spread of the virus.
“This has been extremely frustrating that every time we turn around, this has become more and more political rather than following the science,” Hoffman said. “What we really need here in Arizona is steady leadership rather than this issue, this pandemic and public health crisis being politicized.”
It’s been a long time since he’s asked any educator for guidance on what our schools need.”
Hoffman said the policies put in place by Ducey and the state Legislature have been really disruptive.
“For them to take away the authority of our school leaders to make decisions based on what their community needs and to keep their students and teachers safe is asinine,” she said.
“I don’t know why they would take this direction.”
School leaders are frustrated by the policies and feel like their hands are tied but they do try to stick within the limits of the law, Hoffman said.
While she has yet to hear of any possible lawsuits regarding the policy, Hoffman said she wouldn’t be surprised if there was litigation in the near future.
Hoffman added the policy didn’t go through the typical legislative process and there wasn’t an opportunity for public comment, saying it seemed very last minute and does not follow guidance of public health experts.
“To me, it did not seem well thought out at all.”
With the announcement that Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, is leaving the state agency next month, Hoffman said she was very concerned about Christ’s replacement.
“I hope that they are committed to the science and they can help to guide the governor’s office in making better decisions.”
Arizona health officials on Wednesday reported 1,361 new COVID-19 cases and two additional deaths from the disease.
It was the 15th time in the last 16 days that more than 1,000 daily cases were reported after not seeing numbers that high since March.