Program To Empower Individual Choice, Ensure Families Have Needed Resources
PHOENIX — Governor Doug Ducey today announced an initial investment of $10 million for an immediate relief program for K-12 students and families. The funding will provide choice for parents who are facing financial and educational barriers due to unnecessary closures and school mandates and that are not in compliance with the provisions set forth in state law.
The COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit program will fund up to $7,000 per student for needs related to child care, transportation, online tutoring and tuition. Grant applications will be accepted starting Friday, August 20 on a first come, first serve basis.
“We are committed to keeping all Arizona kids on track, closing the achievement gap and equipping underserved students and families with the tools they need to thrive,” said Governor Ducey. “Our COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit will empower parents to exercise their choice when it comes to their child’s education and COVID-19 mitigation strategies. It will also give families in need the opportunity to access educational resources like tutoring, child care, transportation and other needs. We know that historically disadvantaged communities bear the brunt of excessive and overbearing measures, and we want to ensure these students are protected.”
Eligible families must have a total household income that is at or below 350% of the Federal Poverty Level. Dollars families receive from the program can be used for education-related expenses, including: transportation to school; online tutoring; child care; and tuition.
In addition to meeting income requirements, parents and families applying for program funding must demonstrate that their current school is isolating, quarantining, or subjecting children to physical COVID-19 constraints in schools, such as requiring the use of masks or providing preferential treatment to vaccinated students — contrary to the provisions established in Laws 2021, Chapter 404, section 12.
The Governor’s Office has been working for weeks to craft a program that provides additional education options for families in need while complying with federal guidelines. The proposal is now ready to move forward with full support from Senate President Karen Fann and House Speaker Rusty Bowers.
“Kids all across the nation have fallen behind on their studies because of COVID-19, and Arizona is no exception,” said President Fann. “Educators, families and state leaders are working hard to get students back on track, and the Educational Recovery Benefit program will make sure kids have every opportunity to grow and thrive.”
“I’m in full agreement with the Governor,” said Speaker Bowers. “Families need to have options available to keep their children from being politicized. We want our children safe, healthy, and achieving, and we can do it all at the same time.”
Research shows that excessive mandates and school closure disproportionately affect students and families of low-income households. According to Yale News coverage on recent research:
Using a quantitative model to examine the consequences of extended school closures for high school students, the researchers determined that children living in the poorest 20% of U.S. neighborhoods will experience the most negative and long-lasting effects of school closures. For example, their model predicts that one year of school closures will cost ninth graders in the poorest communities a 25% decrease in their post-educational earning potential, even if it is followed by three years of normal schooling. By contrast, their model shows no substantial losses for students from the richest 20% of neighborhoods.
Earlier today, Governor Ducey announced district and charter schools following all state laws and remaining open for in-person instruction will be eligible for $163 million in grant funding aimed at boosting resources for schools that received limited federal investment in previously enacted COVID-19 relief legislation. The COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit program will provide families and students with the financial resources needed to continue learning and thriving despite heavy-handed barriers placed by certain schools.
On June 24, 2020, Governor Ducey announced $69.2 million in GEER funding for Arizona schools and students in greatest need. The targeted investments addressed issues like helping expand broadband, supporting innovative programs, and recruiting future teachers.
On October 15, 2020, Governor Ducey announced $500,000 in GEER funding to continue expanding efforts across the state to increase high quality education options. The dollars were distributed by A for Arizona and supported the creation of effective small learning models and community partnerships that target students and families in need.
On November 10, 2020, the Governor, in partnership with Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, announced $19 million in GEER funding to support schools and students most impacted by COVID-19. The dollars helped schools with teacher development, teacher stipends, reading and math curriculum, summer education resources and more.
On April 29, 2021, Governor Ducey announced the state’s distribution of $26.5 million to support Summer learning programs, reach struggling students, enhance student achievement and expand tutoring opportunities.
On June 30, 2021, Governor Ducey signed Arizona’s fiscally conservative FY22 budget, which includes significant investments in K-12 students, schools, teachers and programs across the state.