Treasury Department Reprimands Arizona, Says Can't Use Federal COVID Funds for Schools Without Mask Mandates
The Treasury Department has sent a letter to Arizona Governor Doug Ducey saying that using the state's federal COVID funds on educations grants directed to schools with mask mandates are "not a permissible use."
The recent move notes the attempt by the Biden administration to push back against Republican governors who have opposed mask mandates and had sought the COVID funds to push their agendas, according to an Associated Press News report.
The Republican governor had created the grant programs in August to pressure school districts that went against the state's ban on mask mandates.
Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said in a letter that conditions "undermine evidence-based efforts" to curb the spread of the pandemic.
Adeyemo then asked the state to explain how it will solve the problem within 30 days.
A spokesperson for Ducey, C.J. Karamargin, said that it is "baffling" why anyone would oppose the education grant programs.
Karamargin said that the program would focus on equipping families with the resources to get their children prepared in their studies, such as tutoring, child care, and transportation, among others.
Arizona Education Grants
Ducey had allotted $163 million into one grant program that was available only to schools following the state's ban on mask requirements.
In addition, a $10 million budget was funneled to provide vouchers to families at state public schools that require masks or mandate students to quarantine when exposed to the virus, according to a Newsweek report.
Arizona is one of at least eight states that have laws or released executive orders banning mask mandates in public schools.
In August, the Education Department had opened civil rights probe into five Republican-led states that prohibit any mask mandates in schools.
The department noted that such actions may violate the rights of students with disabilities.
The Education Department had later added Florida to the list of states under investigation, noting that it was watching several other states, which includes Arizona, in case it needed to take action.
States Banning Mask Mandates
The Justice Department had backed up the families of children with disabilities in Texas.
The families were suing to overturn Gov. Greg Abbott's order on the ban of mask mandates in the state's schools, according to The New York Times report.
Texas state courts had also received lawsuits against Abbott's ban and have found initial success.
Ken Paxton, the state attorney general, has defended the ban in state court. He said that the Texas law gives the governor broad powers to guide the state through emergencies like the pandemic.
However, the Justice Department argued in its statement that civil rights protections under anti-discrimination laws are still applicable even during emergencies.
Dustin Rynders, a lawyer representing those with disabilities in Texas, said that it would be discrimination for a state to prohibit ramps to enter the school.
Rynders added that many of the clients, people wearing masks to protect their clients' health is what is required for his clients to be able to safely enter school.
This article is owned by Latin Post.
Written by: Mary Webber
WATCH: Arizona Could Lose Relief Funds for Undermining School Mask Mandates - from News Leader
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