PHOENIX — Arizona's top public schools official is concerned over a new private school vouchers program the governor created for parents who oppose school COVID-19 restrictions.
Gov. Doug Ducey last month rolled out a new program that gives parents $7,000 per child so they can enroll them in a private school where masks and certain quarantine measures may not be required.
"I am extremely frustrated because this is another political maneuver to financially incentivize our schools from not implementing COVID mitigation strategies…that our public health experts strongly recommend," State Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman told KTAR News 92.3 FM.
Hoffman felt the same way when Ducey announced last month that the state would provide additional federal funding to districts and charters that follow Arizona law and remain open for in-person instruction.
The latest vouchers program by the governor is for students enrolled in a public school that either requires masks or requires unvaccinated students exposed to COVID-19 to quarantine or isolate differently than vaccinated students.
Parents must earn up to 350% of the federal poverty level to qualify, which equals $92,750 for a family of four. They can use the money for private school tuition, tutoring or other costs.
Ducey allocated $10 million in federal coronavirus relief dollars for the program. In the first two weeks since the program was made available, the number of applications completed or started have outpaced the available funds.
This comes as numerous school districts in the Phoenix area have decided to require face masks on campus amid rising cases of COVID-19 and in defiance of the governor's wishes.
The governor's office said the new school voucher program is meant to give parents options. Meanwhile, Hoffman sees it differently.
"If we're incentivizing families to transfer schools and avoid these COVID-19 mitigation policies, to me it goes against the science," Hoffman said, adding that universal masking is one of the best tools schools have right now to stop the coronavirus from spreading.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.