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State budget could give Arizona school boards final say on masks

(Photo by Guillermo Legaria/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — Arizona’s proposed state budget could give school boards the final say on mask requirements.

Currently, school districts can mandate masks. A provision in the state budget that Gov. Doug Ducey hammered out with Republican leaders in the House and Senate would solidify that in state law.

State Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, explains GOP leaders had “good intentions” when they added that language.

“They didn’t want the cities or the county supervisors to be making that call,” she said. “So they gave that to the school boards to have it as the most local as possible.”

However, Townsend said it should be left up to parents to decide if their kids wear a mask or not in school. She noted there’s already a state statute that gives parents the right to direct the education of their children.

She added Republican majority leaders in the House and Senate have been discussing this in meetings with fellow state lawmakers.

“They feel that there should not be that level of control over people’s kids, so we are working together on language that’s acceptable,” Townsend said.

State Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, who’s also the vice president of the Pendergast Elementary School District, hopes the language doesn’t change. He supports giving school districts local control over mask requirements.

“We’ve all made decisions that are best for our communities regarding masks,” he said. “And so what I do not want is the governor to step in and tell us that we aren’t able to do that.”

His district decided to keep requiring masks until the end of the school year. Numerous others did the same even after Ducey in April lifted his order that directed schools to require masks.

“We want to be able to hold on to that ability to make those decisions that are best for our community,” Quezada said.

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