In his 2021 State of the State Address, Governor Doug Ducey, in an attempt to make nice with the rabid Trumpist science-reality-denying fringe base that disowned him after his support for the November 3, 2020 elections, decided to devote significant portions of his address to justifying his approach to combatting the COVID 19 Pandemic and attacking public schools for not moving fast enough to reopen for in-person instruction.

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Please click here to read the transcript of the speech.
The Good Parts of the State of the State Address.

Ducey started off his address striking the right notes, talking about mutual respect and opportunities for bipartisanship with the Democratic leaders in the State Legislature.

He then gave a forceful condemnation of the insurrectionist attack in Washington D.C., stating:

“It was a sickening day in Washington D.C., that no American will ever forget. In the United States of America, violence and vandalism have no place in the people’s House. Perpetrators should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. Let us resolve that it never happens again.”

He saluted the efforts of frontline workers, singling out the efforts of several health care workers.

He announced the redoubling of COVID 19 vaccination efforts, stating:

“At my direction, the state has launched a 24/7 vaccination site at a large and notable location: State Farm Stadium, home of the Arizona Cardinals. Everyone needs this vaccine. And the sooner we all receive it, the more quickly we can get on with life as it should be.”

He announced several popular initiatives that could generate bipartisan support. These include:

  • Expansion of broadband.
  • Criminal Justice Reform.
  • Infrastructure investments on roads, bridges, and “water innovation.”
  • Wildfire Prevention.

The Bad and Ugly Parts of Ducey’s State of the State Address.

The rest of Governor Ducey’s State of the State Address was a wish list to branches of the political right.

This included his annual call to reduce taxes and the size of government (during a pandemic, go figure.)

In another gesture to the plutocratic wing of his party, he said he would support “COVID liability protection, so that a statewide emergency doesn’t line the pockets of trial attorneys with frivolous lawsuits.”

He spent a significant portion of his speech justifying his approach to combatting the Coronavirus, arguing his middle of the road approach was the best way to proceed, saying what is happening in Arizona is no worse than what is occurring in other states with stronger mask-wearing and lockdown mandates.

He went after the press and Mayors who said is approach was too weak, stating:

“From the very outset of COVID-19, there have been disagreements about how to deal with it. And in my fifty-plus meetings with the press, I’ve heard endless variations of the same question: Why not more and longer lockdowns? Why not more aggressive lockdowns? Schools, businesses, parks, weddings, funerals, church services – why not ban all gatherings and just lock everything down?

It’s a question that only makes sense if you forget about everything else – all the other troubles that lockdowns set in motion. The rest of life doesn’t stop in a pandemic, least of all our basic responsibilities. People still have bills to pay, children in need of schooling, businesses to run and employees who depend on them. There are lots of men and women who don’t have the option of remote work and don’t receive uninterrupted direct deposits. To make a living, they have to show up somewhere. And if the doors are closed, then at a certain point they are never going to open again.

If we’re really all in this together, then we have to appreciate that for many families “lockdown” doesn’t spell inconvenience; it spells catastrophe… zero income, inability to make a payment, eviction, foreclosure, and real personal anguish.

Often these past ten months, likewise, I met in this office with public-health experts who were describing the broader impacts of COVID-19, beyond the disease itself. Opioid abuse, alcoholism, addiction, mental-health issues, the sheer loneliness of isolation, suicide: there has been no daily count of these human costs, but they are real and they are devastating. And extreme measures by well-intentioned people have unintended consequences that actually do far more harm than good…”

Probably the most significant part of the address was Ducey taking a belligerent tone towards public schools. While advocating sensible approaches to help children get caught up in the learning process ( prioritizing the vaccinations of teachers, paid for summer school, longer school days, and one one one tutoring,) Ducey, in an obvious effort to repair bridges with the fringe base of his party that he needs if he wants to run again for other political offices, said:

“But it’s time to get our students back where they belong. With every public-health professional, from Dr. Fauci and the CDC on down, saying that the safest place for kids to be is in school (That comment needs context and fact-checking,) we will not be funding empty seats or allowing schools to remain in a perpetual state of closure. Children still need to learn, even in a pandemic.”

“By necessity during this emergency, many parents have been more engaged than ever in the daily education of their children. Quite a few have found temporary educational options they want to make permanent. It’s their right. Public policy should keep pace, and empower them to make that choice.”  People who saw this portion of the Governors speech can read this as a plug for supporting using state dollars to fund private school voucher Empowerment Scholarship Accounts. 

Threatening to cut off funding to schools and educators struggling to make the best of a horrible situation during the pandemic is mean and insane. 

Reaction from the Public School Education Community to Ducey’s Speech.

It did not take long for the public school community to take issue with Mr. Ducey’s position on reopening public schools.

Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman issued a statement which read:

“The Governor’s State of the State speech ignored the reality of the worsening spread of COVID-19 and its severe impact on our schools, students, and teachers.

In the face of enormous hardship and loss, teachers and schools have gone above and beyond to ensure students’ learning continues amid school facility closures. To say otherwise – without a commitment to fund distance learning – contributes to the toxic environment where teachers, board members, and superintendents are harassed for making data-driven decisions. The harsh reality is that students and teachers cannot safely return to in-person learning while Arizona sits as one of the worst COVID-19 hotspots in the world.

The key to re-opening our school buildings is getting control of COVID-19. Where vaccines are available, educators have signed up enthusiastically. However, vaccines are not available for educators in all fifteen counties, and in some rural counties, the demand has exceeded the supply. While vaccines are a light at the end of the tunnel, the raging virus impacts schools right now. We must do everything possible to suppress this virus so that in-person education is a safe and viable option sooner rather than later.”

Joe Thomas of the Arizona Education Association condemned  Ducey’s speech for insulting teachers, not proposing solutions to make schools safer,  and “being out of touch with the realities” instructors face. He ridiculed Ducey for complaining about teachers giving virtual instruction when that was the mode of communication he chose to give his State of the State Address. Thomas called for local school governing boards to adopt new health safety metrics for in-person instruction.

Please click here to view Mr. Thomas’s video post on social media.

Co-Founder of Save Our Schools Arizona Beth Lewis also gave a rebuke of Mr. Ducey’s address, echoing Mr. Thomas in mocking Ducey for attacking virtual instruction while giving a virtual address. Reminding viewers that Arizona is among the global leaders in COVID 19 hotspots, Lewis chastized Ducey for threatening to cut funding for schools. She also called for greater funding in education. She also found it amusing that Ducey was attacking distance learning since some of his education supporters/patrons come from large distance learning low performing charter schools. She also reminded the Governor that teachers very much want to return to in-person instruction “when it’s safe.”  She called for full sustainable funding (at one hundred percent) of all modes of instruction and full support for all Arizona Public Schools.

Please click here to watch Ms. Lewis’s video post on social media.

Rebecca Gau, the head of Stand for Children Arizona issued an email that read:

“In today’s State of the State address, Governor Ducey said his goal is to make Arizona the best place in America to live, work, and do business. Ok.

“I propose, in this session,” he said, “that we work together to reform and lower taxes and preserve Arizona’s good name as a responsible, competitive state.”

Like the Governor, I’m very excited for schools to safely reopen, and I want our economy to get back on track.

But make no mistake – his mention of lowering taxes ultimately will result in cuts to education funding as state revenue shrinks, as has happened time and time again.

Tell your representatives: Do not cut education funding as part of the Governor’s budget agenda.

Gov. Ducey is simply out of step with millions of Arizonans who are demanding to solve our education funding problem.

The voters who demanded change at the ballot box and secured a victory for Prop 208 have the momentum.

But we need elected officials to know that you’re opposed to all attempts to further erode education funding by lowering taxes.”

Additional Reaction to the Governor’s State of the State Address.

Brittany Oliver of the Arizona Democratic Party remarked on Mr. Ducey’s address that:

“Governor Ducey’s State of the State Address is not enough.

Arizona is leading the nation with the highest number of COVID-19 infections, and Arizonans are hurting. It’s clear that Gov. Ducey believes corporate handouts are the answer, but Arizona deserves a real plan. That’s why today Legislative Democrats took action and launched the Democratic Blueprint for 2021–Our Plan to Restore, Recover, Rebuild: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FbYuEiosM4o&feature=youtu.be

Democrats won’t stop fighting for Arizonans. Unlike Gov. Ducey, we can’t afford to wait.”

Former Democratic Leader David Lujan, the head of the Arizona Center for Economic Progress, commented on Mr. Ducey’s State of the State, writing:

“My comment: I was hoping to hear the Governor’s plan to help Arizona families and children with problems they are facing during this health and economic crisis like housing, making child care more affordable, and food assistance. Instead, I heard him repeat the false narrative that Arizona needs more tax cuts to make Arizona more economically competitive. Tax cuts will only mean less money to invest in the supports Arizonans need to get through these difficult times.”

Maricopa County Democratic Party Communications Director Edder Diaz-Martinez released the below statement:

“The state of Arizona is in a COVID-19 crisis. Just yesterday, (1/10) Arizona’s health officials reported over 11,000 new COVID-19 cases, with more than 100 deaths related to the global pandemic.

Gov. Doug Ducey has failed Arizona. Thousands across Maricopa County are unemployed or are making barely enough to feed their families. Many more have sick family members in the hospital, with ICU’s in Arizona being at near capacity. Despite data from Arizona’s health officials, Gov. Ducey’s State of the State threatened to defund Arizona schools and focused on ‘cutting taxes.’ The residents of Maricopa County and the state of Arizona deserve better.

Our number one priority should be Maricopa County residents’ health, with an emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable. Any attempt from the Governor or Arizona GOP legislators to distract or deflect from prioritizing people’s health in the wake of this pandemic is irresponsible and reckless.”

Closing Thoughts

Doug Ducey could have used his State of the State Address as an opportunity to fully unite all Arizonans and propose a strategy that would continue to combat the Coronavirus and rebuild the state.

While he did offer some constructive thoughts and moving sentiments in his address, he ruined everything by catering to the whims of his political base on proposing unneeded tax cuts, advocating COVID liability protection, and launching a funding war on public schools.

Governor Ducey, putting his lust for a higher political office above the people, failed as a leader for all Arizonans yesterday.

The people of the Grand Canyon State deserve better.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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