The Daily Agenda: COVID-19 school choice is all the rage
The great resignation hits the legislature, but Kim Yee is still in the governor's race ... And we're all trying to find the guy who came up with Kelli Ward's primary plan.
That pot of money that Gov. Doug Ducey created with federal COVID-19 relief funds for parents who don’t want kids wearing masks at school? Well, apparently, there just isn’t enough of it to go around.
The program offers parents up to a $7,000 voucher to send their student elsewhere if they don’t like their public school’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts.
But the $10 million earmarked for the private school voucher program would need to be doubled to meet the anticipated demand so far, the Associated Press’ Bob Christie reports, and Ducey is considering kicking in another $10 million.
That funding is separate from the $163 million program Ducey started to give schools that don’t institute mask mandates access to more funds after some schools put masking rules in place despite lawmakers’ attempt to outlaw mask mandates.
The anti-mask law doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 29, though, well after school started this year. Deadlines are pesky.
The Biden administration didn’t like the pro-COVID-19 in schools plan, but has not yet slapped the state with an investigation, like it did for other states flouting mask mandates. It remains to be seen what happens on Sept. 30.
But parents, or at least enough of them to likely outnumber the $10 million, are fans of this new voucher program. And the idea that the voucher expansion program could exist beyond the pandemic has Republicans thrilled.
Already, they’re talking about extending the program to prevent these students from being ripped from their schools.
While Republican politicians are polishing their conservative bona fides with school mask bans, a new poll of likely voters from HighGround’s Paul Bentz shows fighting school masks isn’t a universally popular decision.
The poll, which was weighted to give Republicans an 8 percentage point advantage (to match recent voter turnout models) shows that 57 percent of respondents think schools and government should probably or definitely enforce mask mandates.
But the Republican primaries will be crowded and among Republicans, 70 percent oppose mask mandates. A full 92 percent of Democrats support mask mandates in schools.
The law that might be illegal negates the ordinance that might be illegal: A Tucson requirement that city employees get vaccinated is illegal, Attorney General Mark Brnovich said, even though the law that would make it illegal did not actually go into effect yet. And never mind the fact that the almost-law in question is the subject of its own lawsuit, Howie Fischer reports.
Which gov candidates believe in Santa Claus?: The Republic’s Stacey Barchenger got all the big governor candidates on the record about whether they support the Arizona audit and whether they believe Biden won the election. You’ll be surprised to learn the responses broke along partisan lines. Kari Lake, though, was the only one of the GOP candidates who said Trump won (he didn’t).
We believe in quitting your jobs: Arizona Sen. Sean Bowie, a Democrat from Legislative District 18, announced that he’s not running for reelection next year, saying, essentially, that he’s burned out on politics. He is among the most moderate Democrats and flipped the seat from Republican to Democrat when he ran in 2016. He said he isn’t sure what he’ll do next, but we’re sure tons of companies or schools or lobbying groups would love to have a former lawmaker on staff.
Speaking of quitting: We forgot to mention yesterday that Democratic state Rep. Randy Friese bowed out of the race to replace U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick in Tucson’s Second Congressional District. His explanation — that the delta variant has made his running for congress and working as a doctor too challenging — doesn’t make much sense, considering his whole pitch was essentially “send a doctor to Congress.”
The best way to make money is to already have money: You don’t have to drive to Vegas to place a bet on a football game anymore. Legalized sports betting starts tomorrow, though if you’re like us, your ads on Twitter have been screaming at you about this for weeks. The Republic’s José M. Romero breaks down the new betting options.
And to think, this was all preventable: It’s probably shorter to make a list of places where COVID-19 isn’t surging now. Unfortunately, the disease is tearing through Phoenix’s homeless community again, and it’s at a time when there’s a staff shortage for medical workers, the Republic’s Jessica Boehm reports.
Things could be worse, but they could definitely be better: Rivers across Arizona aren’t doing so hot. Groundwater pumping in the areas near the Verde River and the San Pedro River are affecting the rivers’ flows. Wells are running dry. Former Republic reporter Ian James, now at the Los Angeles Times, left behind some great work on how these rivers affect the lives of Arizonans.
That’ll save her campaign: Arizona Treasurer and gubernatorial longshot Kimberly Yee sold off the state’s stocks in Ben and Jerry’s parent company after the Jewish ice cream makers announced this summer that they would stop selling ice cream in the West Bank. Yee claimed she had no choice, as she and GOP lawmakers voted back in 2016 to bar the state from doing business with companies that “boycott Israel.” That law was ruled unconstitutional, so lawmakers drafted a new one.
But about those Census results: Republicans could gain more in the redistricting process now underway because the recent Census results showed suburban areas in Maricopa County, which skew Republican, grew the most, reports the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda.
The audit has gone on about three inches too long: There are many ways to measure time, but we’re going with the length of Republic reporter Jen Fifield’s hair as our official measure of how long the never-ending audit will last. The official Fifield hair length over/under before we get results is mid-waist.
But what is she eating for lunch these days?: The Republic’s Bill Goodykoontz continues his intrepid investigation into all things Meghan McCain. Today’s question: Why haven’t they replaced her on The View?
Talk about timing: Arizona Sen. Juan Mendez and Rep. Athena Salman announced they are having their first baby, and it’s due in January, just as the new legislative session is set to begin. Congrats!
There’s a new Substack in town. We launched Arizona Agenda after receiving a seed grant from Substack Local Initiative, a worldwide competition with a dozen winners. But we weren’t the only Arizonans on the list. Melissa del Bosque and Todd Miller, two longtime border journalists based in Tucson, launched The Border Chronicle yesterday. They’ll be doing weekly on-the-ground reporting, analysis, and commentary about the border region. Give them a sub!
We watched yesterday as Twitter drama unfolded over AZGOP Chair Kelli Ward’s plan to control which Republicans become the party’s nominees.
It started with Lake accusing Ward of “rigging” the primary.
Ward initially denied that there was a plan and pledged to find out who was behind this latest fake news.
But her fellow Republicans quickly reminded her that she, in fact, came up with it, and it would be illegal.
The Court of Appeals will hear arguments in the Swim Neptune case today at 11 a.m. at 1501 W. Washington Street, Phoenix. The argument will also be livestreamed here.
Heirs of the Republic will hold a patriot revival concert tonight at 5 p.m. at Faith Community Church East, 8455 E Golf Links Road, Tucson. Dave Bray USA is the entertainment.