Earlier this afternoon, Governor Doug Ducey, after consulting with Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman and other local education leaders, issued an Executive Order that detailed how approximately $270 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) will be allocated to qualifying Arizona’s Public Schools.

Major features of the Executive Order (please click here to read the whole document) include:

  • $200 million in enrollment stability grants to increase online learning and $for schools that fall below 98 percent of last year’s attendance membership to apply for.
  • $40 million to expand rural broadband.
  • $20 million for acceleration grants for high need schools to bring in reading and math specialists to help children catch up academically.
  • $ 6 million for the Arizona Teachers Academy.
  • $1 million for School Innovation Microgrants.
  • $1 million for Arizona State School Deaf and Blind Vehicles.
  • $700,000 for a Beat the Odds School Leadership Academy.
  • $500,000 for Teach for America Tutoring.

The Arizona Department of Education is also providing $25 million in CARES aid which includes funds for:

  •  $14.5 million for additional aid to non-Title One local schools that did not qualify for initial recovery funds.
  • $6 million for high-quality distance learning grants.
  • $5 million for a special education compensation fund.
  • $300,000 for social-emotional learning and trauma development training.

Posting on social media, Superintendent Hoffman wrote:

“With the growing uncertainty regarding COVID19, today’s executive order represents an important step towards stability for public schools, which are vital to the health and success of our communities.”

“In order for students and teachers to return to schools safely, it is critical that all Arizonans follow social distancing, wear masks, and stay home when possible.”

Arizona House Democrats also issued a statement that could be characterized as cautiously optimistic. It read:

“Democratic members of the House Education Committee responded with guarded optimism to a $240 million plan announced today by Gov. Doug Ducey and Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman to help schools re-open safely, facilitate remote learning and avoid budget cuts as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. You can read more about the plan and Gov. Ducey’s executive order here.”

Rep. Reginald Bolding, ranking Democratic member:

“As school districts prepare to re-open this fall with the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, educators are looking for guidance, certainty, and resources to provide a safe campus learning environment or equitable remote-learning options. Today’s executive order provides some much-needed flexibility for our schools to continue educating our students in a manner that helps ensure student and faculty safety. There is still some uncertainty over how distance learning will be funded and facilitated, which needs to be cleared up. This is a good first step, but these are the first steps in a marathon.”

Rep. Jennifer Pawlik:

“I recently held an online conversation about going back to school and heard hundreds of questions and concerns from parents and teachers about how we can safely re-open our schools. People want certainty and open communication about what the 20-21 school year. This plan provides some of that clarity. I appreciate the flexibility to fund distance learning and investment in broadband infrastructure. Our rural and indigenous communities have less access to technology, and this could eventually help beyond education to allow telemedicine and opportunities to work from home in remote parts of our state.”

Rep. Aaron Lieberman:

“Now that we know schools will have the flexibility to support hybrid distance learning options, the most important next step is to help every district strengthen their capacity to support high-quality distance learning. Combined with efforts to ensure low-income kids have access to broadband and devices, supporting high-quality distance learning will be the key driver in ensuring Arizona kids don’t get left behind during this crisis.”

Rep. Dr. Gerae Peten:

“The Governor’s executive order hits the main points of concern that I have been hearing from constituents. One tremendous improvement for our teacher’s professional development would be to create a comprehensive curriculum to support virtual instruction to support teaching and learning. And as next step, we should fund community colleges around the state to facilitate the course and give teachers continuing education credits for completing the course.”

This is a welcoming first step for Arizona’s public schools.

Governor Ducey, Superintendent Hoffman, and the other education specialists that helped draw up this Executive Order deserve credit for their efforts.

Inevitably, more help, as the uncertainty of the COVID 19 public health emergency probably moves into the late summer and early fall, will be needed.

A special session will be needed to fill in the blanks this Executive Order could not fill.