PHOENIX — Schools that have lost students during the pandemic would see their funding cut under a proposal Gov. Doug Ducey outlined in his annual state-of-the-state address.
The Republican governor warned schools that he expects them to offer in-person instruction as teachers gain access to the coronavirus vaccine.
He says, “we will not be funding empty seats or allowing schools to remain in a perpetual state of closure.”
That could open up big holes in the budgets for schools, which have seen enrollment decline by about 4%, according to the Department of Education.
State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman fired back shortly after, saying Ducey "ignored the reality of the worsening spread of COVID-19, and its severe impact on our schools, students, and teachers."
The state reported a 7-day death average of 154.71 in 2021, by far the highest death average the state has seen since the beginning of the pandemic.
Ducey has given school district leaders the freedom to decide whether or not to keep classrooms open based on guidelines given by ADHS.
But some school districts have faced pushback from educators as they continue to teach in-person during the virus' resurgence across the nation.
Over a dozen Peoria Unified schools were closed on Monday after staff members staged a "sickout" in protest of the conditions.
"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," Hoffman wrote.
"The key to re-opening our school buildings is getting control of COVID-19."
The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Watch more from Gov. Ducey's State of the State below:
Read Hoffman's full response below: