To be eligible for the grant funding — $163 million in total — Arizona school districts must be open for in-person learning as of August 27 and must be “following all state laws,” including the ban on school mask mandates that Ducey signed into law in June.
“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,” the governor said in a statement Tuesday. “These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona’s students.”
In response to the grant funding exclusions, US Rep. Greg Stanton, an Arizona Democrat, wrote an open letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking that agency consider withholding the federal Covid relief money from the state.
The Treasury Department, he said, needs 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.”
In addition to the threat over new funding, Ducey on Tuesday announced a grant program for students who attend schools that require masks, allowing them to use the money for education expenses like transportation and tuition costs at a different school. The program is also funded with federal Covid relief money.
At least six other states — Arkansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah — prohibit districts from requiring masks in schools.