Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey warned two school districts this week that requiring unvaccinated students to quarantine after exposure to COVID-19 is against state law.
In a letter to two superintendents on Wednesday, Ducey said the districts’ policy to mandate a 10-day quarantine for unvaccinated students who come into contact with the virus goes against a state law that prohibits schools from requiring vaccines or face masks among students.
The Republican governor’s office tweeted a copy of the letter that was sent to the Catalina Foothills Unified School District No. 16 in Pima County and the Peoria Unified School District No. 11 in Maricopa County, after the districts released guidance for parents in preparation for the impending school year.
Ducey said the policy “must be rescinded immediately” in order for all students’ education to align with the law.
But lawyers for the two districts disagreed with the governor’s characterization and asked that his letter be rescinded.
In a written response obtained by KTAR News, the attorneys argue that both districts are in full compliance with the Arizona law that forbids mask and vaccine mandates, as neither district has a mask or vaccine requirement in place.
Instead, the 10-day quarantine rule for unvaccinated students comes directly from state health and federal CDC guidance.
Arizona’s health department previously issued guidance suggesting that a person who has close contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 should quarantine for 14 days from their last exposure. The guidance notes that some individuals, including those who have been vaccinated, are eligible for shortened quarantine or no quarantine at all.
Nothing in the state’s law “restricts a school district from following guidance provided by federal, state, and local public health authorities with regard to students who have been exposed to COVID-19,” attorney John C. Richardson wrote in the response letter.
Both the Arizona Department of Education State Superintendent and the Arizona School Boards Association slammed Ducey’s letter.
“I am tired of Arizona’s public schools being a leverage point for the Governor’s political conversation on COVID-19 that growingly has nothing to do with science or public health,” State Superintendent Kathy Hoffman tweeted.
A representative for Ducey did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Students attending schools in both districts head back to the classroom in less than a month.
The 1619 Project creator Nikole Hannah-Jones on Tuesday responded to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s push to remove the project, which was launched on the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the first African slaves to what would become the United States, from federal grant programs.
The project, which was published by The New York Times Magazine in 2019, examines the legacy of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans throughout the nation’s history, drawing the ire of conservatives who have sought to ban the body of work from being taught in schools.
In a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, the Kentucky Republican and 38 members of his Senate GOP caucus outlined their opposition to the Department of Education developing updated history curricula, alleging that the content is “divisive.”
“This is a time to strengthen the teaching of civics and American history in our schools,” the letter says. “Instead, your Proposed Priorities double down on divisive, radical, and historically-dubious buzzwords and propaganda.”
The letter added: “Americans do not need or want their tax dollars diverted from promoting the principles that unite our nation toward promoting radical ideologies meant to divide us.”
During an appearance on MSNBC’s “The ReidOut” with host Joy Reid, Hannah-Jones rebuts McConnell’s argument that the project perpetuates “a drumbeat of revisionism and negativity,” while also responding to his claim that 1619 was not one of the most important years in US history.
“I don’t know how you teach about 1865 without acknowledging that 1619 was an important year being that 1865 occurs began we began slavery in 1619,” she said, referring to the end of the Civil War in her dialogue. “So when you hear people like him saying that teaching the actual facts of American history are divisive, maybe that’s because we have a divisive history in this country.”
She added: “He’s not arguing that we shouldn’t teach the truth. He’s just saying that the truth is too difficult for apparently our nation to bear and that we’re far too fragile to be able to withstand the scrutiny of the truth.”
In her essay, “America Wasn’t a Democracy Until Black Americans Made It One,” Hannah-Jones argued that Black Americans have been some of the most valiant fighters for American ideals.
“Despite being violently denied the freedom and justice promised to all, black Americans believed fervently in the American creed,” she wrote. “Through centuries of black resistance and protest, we have helped the country live up to its founding ideals. And not only for ourselves – black rights struggles paved the way for every other rights struggle, including women’s and gay rights, immigrant and disability rights.”
She added: “Without the idealistic, strenuous and patriotic efforts of black Americans, our democracy today would most likely look very different – it might not be a democracy at all.”
The median annual wage across all public school occupations was $49,680. The salaries for occupations with at least 25,000 employed within the sector range from $25,510 for fast food and counter workers to $99,690 for education administrators.
Teacher salaries also vary between grade levels. For instance, high school teachers earn a median wage of $63,400 a year, while middle school teachers earn a median wage of $61,780.
For our analysis, we looked at all the occupations with at least 25,000 employees in the local-government-owned school sector in May 2020. We then ranked these occupations from lowest to highest wage. In addition to the median annual pay, the above slides also include the number of people in that job within this industry.
The number of students enrolled in California’s public schools plummeted to 6,002,523 students in the 2020-2021 school year from 6,163,001 in the 2019-2020 school year. That’s a decrease of 2.6%.
Public school officials expressed concern at the steep drop, but optimism that the numbers could rebound when schools fully reopen.
“While there are many reasons to stay optimistic that enrollment will rebound as conditions improve, allowing more schools to safely return to in-person instruction, we also must help schools identify opportunities to engage with families who either sought new options for their students during the pandemic or need additional resources and support to connect with school and succeed,” State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond said in a press release.
Many schools across the country turned to remote learning last year, closing schools to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. Since then, some schools have been slow to reopen, and others have pivoted to hybrid models. Around half of elementary schools were open for full in-person learning as of last month, according to the Associated Press.
Though student enrollment in California public schools had been declining for several years, this past year’s plunge is a much larger decrease for California public schools than in previous years. The Los Angeles Times, reported that it’s the largest drop for public school enrollment in the Golden State in two decades.
An analysis by the nonprofit organization EdSource, which focuses on California education, looked at California public school enrollment data since the 1999-2000 academic year. The nonprofit found that the last largest drop was between the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 academic year. Enrollment declined to 6,192,121 in 2009-2010 from 6,252,029 in 2008-2009 – a drop of 59,908.
The largest declines in enrollment by grade in the state occurred in kindergarten and sixth grade. The Los Angeles Times reported that the decline in kindergarten enrollment was over 60,000.
California isn’t the only state reporting a drop in enrollment as the pandemic continues. Arizona enrollment data also shows a decline by 38,000 students from 2019-2020 to 2020-2021, as reported by a local ABC News station. KCCI, a news station in Des Moines, Iowa, reported that public school enrollment in Iowa dropped by almost 6,000 students from the year before. KCCI added that this is the first decline in enrollment for the state in a decade.