Arizona Governor Doug Ducey unveiled a new school choice program on Tuesday that will fund school tuition for students whose public schools close “for even one day” due to a spike in Covid-19 cases.
The Open for Learning Recovery Benefit program will provide parents up to $7,000 in funding for child care, transportation or online tutoring needs to help students who struggle to succeed in an online learning setting, Ducey’s office said in a press release. Parents who opt into the program will be eligible to receive school tuition to enroll their children in other in-person schools if theirs is closed.
“In Arizona, we’re going to ensure continued access to in-person learning,” Ducey said. “Everyone agrees that schools should stay open and kids need to be in the classroom. With this announcement, we are making sure parents and families have options if a school closes its doors.”
More than 450,000 students returned to remote learning in the first week of January after the holiday break ended, according to the New York Times. A number of districts, including in Newark, N.J., Atlanta, Ga., and Cleveland, Ohio, began online learning amid a surge in Covid cases driven by the Omicron variant. Newark schools will be closed until January 14.
National Educators United, a grassroots teachers union that operates in Arizona, called for a minimum “two-week pause” on classroom learning beginning January 3.
However, the CDC and President Joe Biden have urged schools to remain open amid the latest surge in Covid cases, despite both being advocates for lockdowns early in the pandemic.
Biden and the CDC are now both advocating for a test-to-stay program for schools to allow asymptomatic students to return to in-person learning.