The Pima County Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 on Tuesday against mask requirements for K-12 schools in Pima County.
Supervisor Matt Heinz presented the proposal for masks in schools in response to research from the Centers for Disease Control and Pima County.
Pima County recently co-authored a study with the CDC that found K-12 schools without mask requirements in Pima and Maricopa counties were 3.5 times more likely to have a COVID outbreak than schools with mask mandates.
“In light of the information that literally came from this county and Maricopa County in Arizona and the CDC,” Heinz said, “I think it makes a lot of sense for us to take a look at this again.”
Heinz reiterated his view that masks protect students and teachers from COVID and that data supported his opinion.
Dr. Francisco Garcia, Pima County's chief medical officer, was asked to discuss the potential mandate with all 12 school district superintendents in Pima County. He presented their feedback during the board's regular meeting.
Thanks to University of Arizona golf star David Laskin, every UA student, faculty member and staffer will be able to access the Wall Street Journal for free.
When Laskin was named the Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year, two UA alumni donated $200,000 in his honor to be used for the men's golf team and the Eller College of Management’s Department of Finance.
“I remembered that I’d had to buy the Wall Street Journal for some of my classes, so, in talking with my dad, he suggested figuring out a way to give access to it. That made a lot of sense to make it accessible for students.”
Through their memberships, students, faculty and staff will have unlimited access to WSJ.com, WSJ apps, podcasts, curated newsletters and more. Those that currently have memberships may be eligible for partial refunds when they switch to their school-sponsored subscription.
The Marana Unified School District Governing Board ended their special meeting on Wednesday with no action on requiring face masks on Marana school campuses.
Board member John Lewandowski called the Sept. 28 emergency meeting on the previous day and planned to make a motion for the institution of a mask mandate. Marana school campuses have gone to mask-optional status since their previous mandate ended on Sept 29.
New data from a recently released study by the CDC, co-authored with Pima County, showed K-12 schools without mask requirements were 3.5 times more likely to experience a COVID outbreak. Data was taken from 999 public schools in Pima and Maricopa counties.
Board member Hunter Holt surprised the Board on Wednesday by making a motion to relinquish the authority to institute a mask mandate to Superintendent Dr. Dan Streeter.
“My motion is to give Dr. Streeter sole authority to implement and remove any sort of mask mandate from here on out,” Holt said.
Holt said he trusted Streeter to make the proper decision. He also said that COVID case numbers have improved in Marana. The Arizona Department of Health Services has recorded a slow decrease of overall COVID cases in Pima County since the August surge. Pima County K-12 schools are still considered to have high transmissibility, according to ADHS.
“This is really ridiculous. John called this meeting so the five of us could vote on re-imposing a mask mandate and now Hunter has come in from left field and has thrown this curveball,” said board member Tom Carlson. "Obviously, Dr. Streeter doesn’t know what to say on this.”
Streeter seemed confused by the surprise motion and recommended the Board vote no. The motion to give Streeter mandate authority failed.
Lewandowski then asked the board to extend the mask mandate. The motion was not seconded. Marana Unified School District will remain mask-optional until the board decides otherwise.
“I was very disappointed,” Lewandowski said after the meeting.
“I thought I was doing what was in the best interest of kids and staff for safety.”
Lewandowski pledged to ask Board President Dr. Maribel Lopez to revisit the subject at a future meeting but said she could choose not to include it.
In the not-so-distant past, adults were expected to set the example for children. Be role models. Demonstrate respectful behavior. Follow the Golden Rule.
But today, we are unquestionably failing our kids in this regard, especially as it relates to adult behavior toward school officials.
Recently, a Tucson father, armed with “law enforcement-grade” zip ties, threatened to arrest an assistant principal after his son was told to quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure.
Anti-maskers forced a school board to cancel its meeting for safety reasons, then stormed the building and held a mock election to declare themselves the district’s new board members.
A Republican candidate for governor, who set a mask on fire and used a sledgehammer to smash television sets in a campaign video, held a rally at a college campus where she ceremoniously stomped on a mask like a toddler throwing a tantrum and encouraged students to disobey masking guidelines meant to keep students, their professors and the wider community safe from a virus that has killed more than 19,000 Arizonans.
A strong majority of Arizona voters — but only a small fraction of Republicans — support face mask mandates and vaccine requirements in schools and government buildings to combat the spread of COVID-19, according to a new poll commissioned by organizations representing school boards and public health professionals.
In the live-caller poll of 400 voters deemed likely to vote in next year’s general election, 57% of respondents said people should definitely or probably be required to wear face masks in local government facilities, and public schools. Nearly 41% said people should not be required to wear masks in those settings.
And 53% of respondents said those institutions should also be allowed to determine their own policies on face mask mandates, compared to nearly 43% who said they shouldn’t.
The poll was conducted by the Republican lobbying and political consulting firm HighGround on Aug. 30 and 31.
A new state law that goes into effect on Sept. 29 prohibits district and charter schools from requiring face masks. Several education and other advocacy groups, including the Arizona School Boards Association, which commissioned the poll, are challenging that law in court.
Voters took a similar view of vaccine mandates. Nearly 54% said private businesses should be able to require employees to show proof of vaccination against COVID-19, while 42% said employers shouldn’t be permitted to do that. And more than 52% said local governments and public schools should be able to impose that requirement, compared to nearly 45% who said they shouldn’t have that power.
WASHINGTON – Standardized test scores in Arizona fell across the board last school year, as COVID-19 upended learning through the year and led to a sharp drop in the number of students taking the tests, the Arizona Department of Education said.
Results released by the department Friday showed that 38% of students got “satisfactory” grades on the language test and 31% passed the math test in 2021, compared to 42% for both tests in 2019, the last year for which test results are available.
The department warned that results from the pandemic year “need to be viewed with extreme caution” when compared to other years.
“When considering the results of students who did take the test, it is important to remember the learning disruptions from COVID-19 that may have impacted student learning in unforeseen ways,” the department said in a note released with the data.
It also pointed out that “a significant number of students did not take the test” last year. Close to 740,000 students took both tests in 2019, but just 520,912 took the math test last school year and 511,679 took the language skills test.
The AzM2 test, formerly known as AzMerit, and the Multi-State Alternate Assessment test are given to students in grades three through eight and grade 10. Besides measuring student progress, the AzM2 scores are typically used by the Education Department to assign letter grades to state schools, ranking their performance against others in the state.
But state lawmakers last year suspended the use of the standardized tests for the ranking of schools, while still requiring that the test be administered to students. And Gov. Doug Ducey ordered that the students’ scores still be evaluated to “identify the extent of learning loss” during the pandemic year.
Despite concerns that school administrators and state officials can rely too heavily on standardized test scores to assess school performance, advocates said the results of last year’s tests could prove important.
“Standardized tests are an important piece of data, but outside of a pandemic it still doesn’t tell the full story,” said Erin Hart, senior vice president for Education Forward Arizona. “We over-relied on it as a state. It’s really the only data policymakers and people at the state level have, and it has its importance, but it’s not the end-all, be-all.”
When the Arizona Supreme Court ruled against an income tax hike that voters approved last year, it illuminated another K-12 funding issue that could strip $600 million a year out of Arizona schools.
Funding from the legislature’s 2018 extension of an expiring sales tax is likely to count against an education spending limit that voters imposed on the state more than four decades ago. Recent increases in K-12 spending, along with a COVID-induced reduction in the spending cap, are making an urgent problem all the more dire.
Proposition 301, which voters approved in 2000, enacted a six-tenths percent sales tax increase to fund education. That tax hike was only good for 20 years, so in the face of a rapidly approaching expiration date, lawmakers and Gov. Doug Ducey approved an extension in 2018.
But they didn’t replicate a key element of Prop. 301. While lawmakers two decades ago recognized that the sales tax money would violate the constitutional spending limit and convinced voters in 2002 to exempt the recently approved ballot measure, that exemption doesn’t apply to the 2018 extension — and legislators haven’t asked voters to ensure that schools can spend the money.
Lawmakers three years ago copied language from the 2000 ballot measure declaring that money from the reauthorized sales tax hike is exempt from the spending limit, but didn’t ask voters to amend the 1980 spending cap to exempt the sales tax extension.
And the Supreme Court’s ruling last week on Proposition 208 makes clear that that won’t cut it, putting the $600 million in annual sales tax revenue in jeopardy.
The Invest in Education Act, which voters approved as Prop. 208, created a 3.5% income tax surcharge on Arizonans who earn more than $250,000 a year in order to inject an estimated $827 million a year into public schools, much of it aimed at increasing pay for teachers. To get around the spending cap, the ballot measure classified the new money as a grant and declared that the funding was “not considered local revenues” subject to the constitutional limit.