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Arizona’s Governor Doug Ducey tears Biden apart as the school mask battle escalates

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Governor Doug Ducey on Thursday mocked a White House warning to governors attempting to block mask mandates as Arizona is doing with a pending law making such requirements illegal in schools.

“Have you read the letter?” Ducey said, referring to a letter that US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona sent to Ducey and state school director Kathy Hoffman criticizing the state’s ban on masking requirements.

On one rare occasion where he answered questions from reporters, the Republican governor said, “The letter was weak and pathetic. Just like how the Biden government is weak and pathetic on the border, weak and pathetic about Afghanistan, weak and pathetic about the COVID response, and weak and pathetic about the attack on the Phoenix Police Department and Chief Jeri Williams. “

On Wednesday, President Biden called out governors like Ducey who he said would “seek to turn public safety measures – that is, children wearing masks in school – into political disputes for their own political gain. Some are even trying to take power away from local educators by banning masks in schools. You’re setting a dangerous tone. “

Biden said he had directed Cardona “to use all of his regulators and, if necessary, legal action against governors trying to block and intimidate local school officials and educators.”

Ducey says he doesn’t punish schools

In a wide-ranging question-and-answer session following a ceremonial signing of the bill, Ducey defended his decision to use federal COVID-19 aid funds to support unmasked schools and accused the media of providing misinformation about COVID mitigation 19 spread; and said the state was “inundated with money” on schools.

The scholarship programs he announced on Tuesday are not intended to punish schools, but rather to help fill the learning gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ducey.

“We use money to catch up with our children,” he said. However, these funds will only go to schools that demonstrate by August 27 that they comply with state law that prohibits school districts from imposing mask requirements. This law comes into force on September 29th.

He has allocated $ 163 million from the American Rescue Plan to school grants that could run to $ 1,800 per student.

He has also allocated $ 10 million in federal dollars to fund grants of up to $ 7,000 for students planning to leave a school that requires masks. The money could be used for online tutoring, childcare, or tutoring.

Ducey said the program would work like the government’s voucher program known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts, which includes accountability requirements and requiring students to retire from their current public school.

Despite warnings from Cardona and the U.S. Treasury Department, Ducey said he was confident the state had a solid legal foundation on how it plans to spend the federal dollars.

Registrations for the voucher program from Friday; School districts can apply for the scholarships until September 3rd.

Ducey cites parenting choices in the plan

With masks becoming a hot political issue in schools, Ducey said he bowed down to parents’ choice.

Ducey has been repeatedly pressed about how parental decisions to send children to school without masks affect parents who want to keep their children free from the coronavirus, saying he trusts parents to make the right decision about whether to keep their children safe Should wear masks.

Then he accused the media of distracting from the embassy to get a vaccine.

“If you want to know why people are confused, I would throw some of your reports in the mirror,” he said.

He called Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling on Proposition 208, an education funding measure that kept the court alive but signaled “largely unconstitutional”, “good day to Arizona and the Arizona economy.” The move increases the tax rate for incomes over $ 250,000 or $ 500,000 for married couples filing together.

“Although I agree that we could use more funds, we are at a record level at the moment,” said Ducey of the school funding. Since taking office as governor, school budgets have increased by $ 8 billion, some of which compensate for deep cuts during the Great Recession.

Reach the reporter at maryjo.pitzl@arizonarepublic.com and follow her on Twitter @maryjpitzl.

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