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Gov. Ducey announces $163M in grants for schools without mask mandates

Back to school in Arizona
Posted at 1:51 PM, Aug 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-18 21:23:40-04

PHOENIX — Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday that he has allocated $163 million in grants, using federal funds, for district and charter schools that are "following all state laws" and offering in-person learning.

The funding, part of the American Rescue Plan, will be distributed through the state's Education Plus Up Grant program, the Governor's Office said in a news release.

Districts will be able to receive up to $1,800 per student in additional funding.

In order to be eligible for the funding, schools must follow "all state laws" and be open for in-person learning, as of Aug. 27, and continue to have in-person learning through the rest of the year, according to the governor's news release.

"Parents have worked tirelessly over the past year and a half to keep their kids on track," Gov. Ducey said in a written statement. "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."

"These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona’s students," he said.

Gov. Ducey has been at odds with some state leaders, including Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, city leaders, and school districts over masks and mitigation strategies amid the pandemic.

Due to concerns about the spread of the delta variant, some school districts, as well as the state's three universities, have reissued mask mandates for students and staff, something that Gov. Ducey is against and insists is against state law.

Following the governor's announcement, Superintendent Kathy Hoffman issued a statement on Twitter criticizing the governor's move.

Congressman Greg Stanton called Gov. Ducey's latest actions "deeply irresponsible" and questioned whether they violated the intended use of funding under the American Rescue Plan.

The governor also announced an initial investment of $10 million for a relief program for families who are facing "financial and educational barriers due to unnecessary closures and school mandates that are not in compliance with provisions set forth in state law," according to a separate news release.

The "COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit" will provide up to $7,000 per student to cover costs, such as child care, transportation, online tutoring, and tuition.

Grant applications will begin to be accepted on Friday, Aug. 20, the Governor's Office said.

To be eligible, a family's household income must be at or below 350% of the Federal Poverty Level, a news release said, and must demonstrate that their school or district is requiring masks, has issued a mask mandate, or "providing preferential treatment to vaccinated students."