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Arizona educators planning sick-out in several school districts

By Jim Byrne |
January 4, 2021
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Tucson, AZ - As COVID-19 rates and deaths continue to rise in Arizona, as many as 750 educators in the districts of Chandler, Dysart, Peoria and Deer Valley are planning a sick-out to resist the order to return to in-person instruction.

The event is called “Blackout for the Benchmarks” using the hashtag #RIPMetrics in order to highlight the neglect of state and county COVID-19 health benchmarks and safety metrics demonstrated by these school districts. State Superintendent of Schools Kathy Hoffman recommended at least two weeks of virtual learning as students return from winter break. Reactionary Governor Doug Ducey has publicly rejected this recommendation even as hospitals report their bed and staff capacities are reaching crisis levels.

The Chandler School District is located in the East Valley of the Phoenix area and its state legislative district has long been dominated by reactionary politicians connected with the corporate lobbyist group ALEC.

It is important to note that Governor Doug Ducey, himself a member of ALEC, weaponized education funding in July when he decided to give 105% of funding for schools that offer in-person instruction. This meant schools that decided on remote learning faced budget concerns for staff and have felt pressure to return to the classroom and jeopardize lives. Also, in the fall when the election neared, Ducey urged the state Department of Health to change the COVID-19 benchmarks to again create the conditions to force schools to return to in person. It comes as no surprise that, as the biggest school districts in the state returned to in-person learning, COVID-19 cases rose, deaths of educators and others occurred, and many districts had to return to remote learning within a matter of weeks in order to stop the spread of the virus.

President Trump also recently opened up federal Community Services Block Grant money to states to private tuition. This falls in line with the right-wing agenda of destroying public education and promoting private schools.

Arizona has been in the grips of a reactionary assault on public schools, through chronic underfunding from the state’s awarding tax loopholes to large corporations and relying heavily on regressive sales taxes. But educators and allies recently delivered a major blow to the reactionary regime by passing the ballot initiative called the “Invest in Ed Act.” This will secure around $900 million in annual public education funding by taxing the richest Arizonans.

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