Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is facing lots of questions after he signed an executive order that prevents school districts with mask mandates from receiving any of the $163 million in federal grants promised under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
Ducey joins Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Texas’ Greg Abbott as the latest governor to take extraordinary steps to prevent schools from doing all they can to keep students and teachers safe from the latest wave of COVID-19.
To be eligible for the $163 million in funding in the relief bill, Arizona school districts must be open for in-person learning as of August 27 and must follow all state laws — which includes the ban on school mask mandates that Ducey signed into law back 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."
Ducey’s push to block schools from requiring masks comes as public health experts continue to promote them as a key factor in reducing the spread of the coronavirus. Meanwhile, COVID cases continue to rise across the country because of the highly transmissible delta variant.
Several school districts in Arizona have already implemented mask-wearing mandates in defiance of the state law. There are even questions about when Ducey’s law goes into effect. It was passed retroactive to June 30, but because Arizona requires laws to go into effect 90 days after the legislature adjourns, some say the current mask mandates are not breaking any laws.
The mayor of Phoenix weighed in as well and questioned if the governor has any clue about the uncertainty the latest COVID surge is causing for parents whose kids are in school.
State Senator Greg Stanton, a Democrat, blasted Ducey’s executive order as a shameless and “deeply irresponsible” attempt to score political points on the backs of the pandemic. He also noted that he believes the governor’s plan is illegal because it contradicts the intent of the law Congress passed. He also wrote an open letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking that agency consider withholding Arizona’s Covid relief money if Ducey does not back down.