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Arizona Will Withhold Funds From Schools With Mask Mandates

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, announced this week that the state would withhold federal relief funds from school districts with mask mandates.

A new $163 million school grant program, created with American Rescue Plan funds, is open to schools adhering to "all state laws" which prohibit any mask or vaccine mandate.

Schools that have mask mandates or have closed due to COVID-19 outbreaks are not eligible for the program and risk losing the additional $1,800 per student.

Phoenix Union High School District is one of several districts instituting a mask mandate this fall. A judge ruled Monday the state law isn't in effect yet and that the district can continue to enforce its mask mandate.

"Today, I am worried about our children," Chad Gestson, the district superintendent, wrote in a tweet Tuesday. "But as for those in our care in PXU, we will continue to prioritize their health, safety, and wellness."

Earlier this month, Republican lawmakers pressured the governor to take action against school districts requiring face coverings, including withholding federal funding and authorizing temporary school vouchers for students in those districts.

Ducey announced a separate $10 million grant program this week for families affected by their district's mask mandates or other COVID-19 measures. Applications open up Friday, and funds can be used for child care, transportation, tutoring, and tuition.

The political tug of war between states banning mask mandates and school leaders continues, with several other state leaders tying funds to mask-wearing policies. In Tennessee, the state's House speaker has threatened to introduce voucher programs in districts requiring masks. And, in Florida, the state Board of Education will provide private school vouchers to families in communities requiring masks.

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