Arizona state Sen. Ugenti-Rita defends ‘educational terrorist’ comment made on Senate floor
PHOENIX — Arizona state Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita on Tuesday defended a comment made a day earlier on the Senate floor in which she referred to those who assisted in shutting down in-person learning during COVID as “educational terrorists.”
The comment came as Ugenti-Rita was explaining her “no” vote on waiving an educational spending limit that would have cost districts 16% of their budgets this academic year had it not been waived.
Ugenti-Rita didn’t clarify to KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Gaydos and Chad whether she was talking directly about teachers, but criticized school boards and others for their actions as the pandemic ravaged the state.
As teachers look on, Senator Ugenti-Rita points at them and calls them "terrorists" who held our children "hostage." Then votes to defund AZ schools of $1.2 billion dollars. pic.twitter.com/HQIlzVy8ng
— Arizona Senate Democrats (@AZSenateDems) February 22, 2022
“Kids have been put last. Their education has been put last. Their mental well being has been put last,” Ugenti-Rita, a mother of three children in public school, said. “We’ve exploited COVID and have used that as an excuse to deny kids a proper education.
“We’ve closed schools and anyone who’s part of that needs to be held accountable.”
A main reason Ugenti-Rita, of Scottsdale, said she voted against waiving the spending limit was what she believes is a lack of accountability from school leaders in prioritizing the needs of students during the pandemic.
Ugenti-Rita was one of six Senate GOP members who voted against waiving the measure, which would have cost schools $1.2 billion in funding already allocated to them for this school year.
“We don’t have a money problem,” Ugenti-Rita said. “We potentially have an allocation problem. If you want to have more money in a certain pot like salaries or something else, have that discussion with the school board.
“It’s impossible to do that when school boards are shutting down access, not listening to parents and shutting down schools.”
She said some teachers — namely those who push for masking and virtual learning — are exacerbating issues that she believes have held back students in the state.
“Some of them are the problems. Some of them are great,” Ugenti-Rita said. “If you are not in the business of educating kids, if you want to continue to push for school closures or masking everybody up, then yes, I think you’re part of the problem.”