The United States Treasury Department has told Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) that he must stop restricting school districts with mask mandates in place from receiving federal funding.
School districts that have implemented masking rules to reduce the spread of coronavirus were not allowed to receive any of the money the state had established through two federally-funded grant programs.
Such restrictions, the Treasury Department said in a letter to Ducey, were “not a permissible use” of the funds that were sent to the state.
In an attempt to incentivize schools to lift mask mandates, the Ducey administration created two grant programs through the federal assistance the state received — one that sought to allocate $163 million in funds to schools without mask mandates, the other a $10 million grant to assist parents of children whose schools required masks or required students to quarantine after COVID-19 exposure.
Ducey reacted to news of the Treasury Department’s letter by lashing out at President Joe Biden, claiming on Twitter that the president is “focused on taking power away from American families by issuing restrictive and dictatorial mandates for his own political gain.”
The vast majority of Arizona residents disagree with the Republican governor’s response to the pandemic, particularly with regard to schools reopening while the virus continues to run rampant in the state. Last month, a poll found that nearly 6 in 10 Arizona voters (57 percent) believed masks should be required inside all public school buildings.
“The data confirms the conversations that we have with parents as we’re teaching,” said Marisol Garcia, vice president of the Arizona Education Association. “Everyone wants to keep their kids safe, and we want to use everything in our tool belt to do so.”
Recent studies showcase that masking mandates do work to slow the spread of coronavirus in school settings. A study observing districts in Arizona, which was published last month, found that schools without mask mandates in place were 3.5 times more likely to have a COVID-19 outbreak than schools that had established rules requiring masking of students and staff. That same study noted that nearly 60 percent of all outbreaks observed happened in schools without mask mandates.