Controversy flares as Gov. Ducey denies grant money to districts with mask mandates

Two Phoenix-area school districts that were expecting to receive federal grant funds will not be getting the money, as officials with Governor Doug Ducey's office say the districts are not eligible.

Violation of controversial mask mandate ban to blame for grand fund loss

Kyrene School District and Tempe Union High School District had been approved by the state to receive millions of dollars in federal grant money. Specifically, Tempe Union was initially granted $5.2 million, and Kyrene was granted $2.8 million. The money would have come from the Governor's Education Plus Up grant program, which is a pot of $163 million in federal funds.

Now, officials with the Governor's Office tell us the two districts were not accurate in their application, as they attested that they were in compliance with state laws, including the ban on mask mandates. Both Tempe Union and Kyrene have mask policies in place.

Educators, state leaders speak out

Marisol Garcia with the Arizona Education Association spoke about the latest development.

"This money is going to be used to hire instruction aides, cafeteria workers, bus drivers," said Garcia. "Specifically with Kyrene and Tempe Union, it must be frustrating for them to know their school board members have to make decisions based off money, and not off safety."

Both Tempe Union and Kyrene have received letters confirming approval of their grant applications. Officials with Kyrene School District have released a statement, which reads:

The Governor's stance is under scrutiny by the U.S. Treasury.

"It's unpopular, it's immoral, and it's illegal," said Rep. Greg Stanton. "Yes, the federal government will take strong action, because they can’t allow federal money to be used for an illegal purpose."

In a previous interview, Gov. Ducey remained defiant, saying he has the decision-making power.

"We have no plan to address what they're sending us. That will be settled in court. We're going to give options to kids in Arizona and to families in Arizona. What we should be focused on now is getting kids caught up," said Gov. Ducey.

More than 100 school districts, the majority of them being charter schools, were approved.  Many Phoenix-area districts did not apply.

As for the grant money, Queen Creek, Higley, and Chandler Unified were among the largest approved recipients, with each district getting more than $8 million in federal grant money. None of those districts have mask mandates.

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COVID-19 Resources

LIST: Arizona school districts with mask requirements

MORE: Coronavirus in Arizona: Latest case numbers

CDC Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 (In Spanish/En Español)

AZDHS Website for COVID-19 Vaccination (In Spanish/En Español)


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