This week, Ducey set up a $163 million school grant program that will only go to schools that have not instituted a mask mandate, as districts across the state are set to defy new legislature that was signed into law by the governor prohibiting mask requirements in schools.
“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. “These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona’s students.”
Arizona’s Democratic House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding called the move by the Republican governor a “sickening irony.”
“It’s a sickening irony that he’s doing this by dangling millions of federally provided funds for COVID-19 relief and forcing school districts to choose between the health and safety of kids and educators, or millions in additional funding that Republicans have withheld for years,” Bolding said in a statement. “With the delta variant running rampant and COVID-19 cases among children on the rise, it’s disgusting to put a bounty on spreading this illness to kids and punishing schools that try to operate safely.”
Ducey is not alone in his callous crusade to make sure kids go unprotected as children’s Covid hospitalization rates hit record-high rates. Texas, Florida, Arizona, Iowa, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah have all banned mask mandates in schools.
President Biden is pushing back on the governors of these states — all Republicans — by using the Education Department’s civil rights enforcement division to investigate states that ban local officials from implementing mask mandates.
In a Wednesday memo sent to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Biden said Cardona should use “all of his oversight authorities and legal actions” to stop local officials from interfering with safety measures.
“We’re not going to sit by as governors try to block and intimidate educators protecting our children,” Biden said.