Ducey to give more funding to schools that follow Arizona law, stay open
PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday the state would provide additional federal funding to districts and charters that follow Arizona law and remain open for in-person instruction.
The $163 million from the American Rescue Plan will be distributed among schools that are open for in-person learning as of Aug. 27 and remain in that mode throughout the academic year.
Schools that defy state law during the 2021-22 school year — including those that have mask mandates — will not be eligible for the funding, according to Ducey.
Schools that abide by Ducey’s stipulations could get up to $1,800 in additional funding per student.
“Parents have worked tirelessly over the past year and a half to keep their kids on track,” Ducey said in a press release. “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.”
Ducey also announced $10 million for a relief program for K-12 students and families facing financial and educational barriers due to closures and school mandates that are not in compliance with state law.
A group of Arizona lawmakers in Ducey’s own Republican party last week pushed him take action against public school districts that have imposed face mask mandates.
Among their demands were that Ducey withhold federal funding from districts with mask mandates and give their students vouchers known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts that can be used at private schools. In all, at least 16 districts in Arizona are requiring students and staff to wear masks while indoors amid fears over the delta variant.
The districts collectively account for 198,000 students and nearly 300 schools, most in Tucson and metro Phoenix.
A Maricopa County judge ruled Monday that Phoenix Union can continue requiring face masks on campus until a new law that was part of the most recent state budget goes into effect on Sept. 29.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona called Ducey’s move “absurdly dangerous” and “anti-science.”
The minimum age to receive the Pfizer shot has been reduced to 12, but it’s still 18 for the other approved versions, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Children under 12 aren’t able to get the shot.
“Until kids under 12 have access to the vaccine, what are parents supposed to do?” Sinema said in a tweet. “Just hope their kids don’t get sick and end up in the ICU?”
Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said Ducey’s move was “another outrageous attack on public education.”
“Today’s announcements demonstrate a remarkable ability to ignore any lessons gained from a year and a half of dealing with COVID-19,” Hoffman said.
Representative Greg Stanton, a Democrat, called Ducey’s move a “science-denying mission” and a “deeply irresponsible plan.”
“After more than a year of virtual of hybrid learning, it’s time to get children back in the classroom — safely. With those under the age of 12 not yet able to receive a vaccine, the governor’s gambit would put more children in danger,” Stanton said in a statement.