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Arizona teacher’s union blasts Ducey’s state-of-the-state address

Ducey SOS 2022
Ross D. Franklin/AP
Gov. Doug Ducey delivers his eighth and final state-of-the-state address to lawmakers at the Arizona Capitol on Mon, Jan. 10, 2022.

Arizona’s largest teacher’s union is blasting Gov. Doug Ducey’s state-of-the-state address Monday. They say he offered no plan or support to keep schools open for in-person learning amid the state’s highest recorded numbers of COVID-19 infections.

The Arizona Education Association says Ducey’s speech disregarded the impacts of the current COVID surge that’s being driven by the omicron variant.

The union represents 20,000 teachers and education staff across the state and says the large numbers of school workers who are currently sick and in quarantine have created critical teacher shortages in many districts.

AEA President Joe Thomas says schools need funding to keep classrooms open and to help implement safety measures like masking, proper ventilation and virus testing.

“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,” he says.

The group worries if the problems persist teachers could increasingly leave the profession altogether.

In his eighth and final state-of-the-state address at the capitol, Ducey said too much attention has been paid to mask mandates and restrictions and not enough to learning. He largely focused on Republican priorities like expanding the state’s private school voucher program.

“This session, let’s expand school choice any way we can – greater open enrollment, new transportation models, more charter schools, and more educational freedom for families, especially those in failing schools or who can’t afford to pick up and move to a new neighborhood. Let’s think big and find more ways to get kids into the school of their parents’ choice,” said Ducey during the address.

The governor also vowed to keep so-called “critical race theory” from being discussed in classrooms.

The 2022 Arizona legislative session began Monday.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.