Arizona Gov. Doug DuceyDoug DuceyArizona launches M program to help families pay utility bills GOP governors traveling to border to unveil new security initiative Treasury says Arizona can't use federal COVID-19 aid for anti-mask education grants MORE (R) on Tuesday announced that the state would refuse to provide federal COVID-19 relief funds to public school districts that have mask mandates in place.
"Parents are in the driver's seat, and it's their right to make decisions that best fit the needs of their children. Safety recommendations are welcomed and encouraged — mandates that place more stress on students and families aren't," Ducey said in a statement. "These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona's students."
In order for school districts to qualify for the grants, which total about $163 million, they must reopen schools for in-person learning and adhere to "all state laws," which includes the state ban on mask mandates in schools, according to CNN.
Ducey's move marks his latest attempt to crack down on school mask mandates, despite guidance from health officials that suggest masks help to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Some school districts in Arizona have sought to push back on the governor's ban, arguing that it won't take effect until September, making their current mask mandates legal until then, CNN noted.
Democratic state Rep. Greg StantonGregory (Greg) John StantonSinema trails potential primary challengers in progressive poll Roof collapse, explosion leaves four injured in Arizona Arizona governor withholding grants to schools with mask mandates MORE ripped the governor's decision on Tuesday after hearing of the grant exclusions.
"This deeply irresponsible plan appears to violate the plain language of the law as written by Congress as well as the guidance issued by the Department of the Treasury. These funds are not intended to be used for policies that undercut scientific research to pursue purely partisan ideological priorities," Stanton wrote in a letter to U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet YellenJanet Louise YellenOn The Money — Democrats tee up Senate spending battles with GOP Treasury to use extraordinary measures despite debt ceiling hike Senate GOP signals they'll help bail out Biden's Fed chair MORE.
He also called on the Treasury Department to "make clear to the governor that if he follows through with this reckless proposal, he risks losing these funds for Arizona."
"These resources should — and must — be made available to all Arizona schools," he added.
The Governor's gambit to deny American Rescue Plan funds to schools following CDC guidance not only puts students at risk—it violates the law as written by Congress.@USTreasury should make clear that these funds should go to all schools. pic.twitter.com/eq6PDKpx8T— Rep. Greg Stanton (@RepGregStanton) August 17, 2021
Arizona's Democratic superintendent of public instruction also pushed back on Ducey's decision.