State Watch

Arizona governor withholding grants to schools with mask mandates

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Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (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 Stanton 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 Yellen.

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.

Arizona’s Democratic superintendent of public instruction also pushed back on Ducey’s decision.

“This is yet another outrageous attack on public education by the Governor when he should be listening to school leaders and educators on what is needed to keep students safe, and schools open,” Kathy Hoffman said in a tweet.
    Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Arkansas, Iowa and Utah have also implemented bans against masks mandates in schools, CNN noted.
    Tags Arizona Doug Ducey Greg Stanton Janet Yellen mask mandate school mask mandate

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