PHOENIX — Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman asked for more funding and patience Tuesday in her State of Education address as Arizona continues to struggle to limit coronavirus infection rates and getting children back in classrooms.
“For us to achieve our goals for in-person learning and a return to stability for our students, teachers and families, we must ensure that school communities are safe for students and staff alike,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman’s speech stressed the importance of full funding for schools not only through the pandemic but eventually after all students are able to return to in-person learning without restrictions.
Despite vaccinations underway for educators in Arizona, it’s not yet known when classrooms will look like pre-COVID times.
The Democrat’s hope is that more money can be allocated for education as distance learning continues to be a necessary option.
It’s especially important as public schools are projected to lose up to $500 million in formula funding since state law funds distance learning at 5% less than in-person learning.
The solution to that deficit — the Enrollment Stability Grant — fell short by $247 million.
Hoffman said she supported a proposal from the state’s Senate Republican leadership to fully fund distance learning this year.
“What is devastating is that despite the services our schools deliver, despite the obstacles they have overcome in this last year, our state continues to deny them the long-term, sustained funding that any company, business or agency needs to thrive,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman stressed the need for the state to get the spread of the virus under control as a key way to return education to normality.
Infection rates are slowly improving, but all 15 Arizona counties are still recommended to conduct only distance learning per the state’s educational benchmark recommendations.
“Getting the virus under control is the very first step to easing the burdens on our educators and the impact on our students,” Hoffman said. “Thankfully, our numbers are beginning to improve, but with all fifteen counties in the red, we must continue to work to get this virus under control, so we can fully focus on policies and investments to retain and grow our educator workforce.”
Despite the funding pitfalls, Hoffman is remaining hopeful in the future of education in Arizona.
“By focusing on science and facts and leading with empathy and kindness for the struggles Arizonans are facing, we have an opportunity to choose hope, to see our students as the future of our state and collaborate on solutions that can uplift every family and every student in Arizona,” Hoffman said.
This content was originally published here.