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Arizona's Ducey denying grants to schools requiring mask protections

Ducey is effectively telling communities, "Don't have any COVID outbreaks, and don't take steps that might help prevent COVID outbreaks."

When congressional Democrats and the Biden White House approved the American Rescue Plan earlier this year, they included considerable resources for schools. With this in mind, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) created a $163 million school grant program for his state.

On the surface, this hardly seemed controversial. After all, those schools will no doubt benefit from the additional funding. But as the Associated Press reported, the Republican governor's program came with some ridiculous strings attached.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey on Tuesday upped the pressure on the growing number of public school districts defying a state ban on mask mandates as they try to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The Republican created a $163 million school grant program using federal virus relief funds he controls, but schools that have mask mandates or have to close because of COVID-19 outbreaks won't be eligible for the additional $1,800 per student.

Got that? In the midst of a pandemic, in a state where infections and hospitalizations are on the rise, some local school districts are trying to protect children by requiring mask protections. The governor is drawing a line: schools that want the additional resources need to eliminate those protections.

Ducey can't force schools to drop mask requirements, but he apparently intends to reward schools that are indifferent toward public-health risks.

What's more, if schools in Arizona have to close their doors in response to widespread infections, they'll lose out on the money, too. The GOP governor is effectively telling communities, "Don't have any COVID outbreaks, and don't take steps that might help prevent COVID outbreaks."

Not surprisingly, this wasn't well received by Democratic House Minority Leader Reginald Bolding.

"It's a sickening irony that he's doing this by dangling millions of federally provided funds for COVID-19 relief and forcing school districts to choose between the health and safety of kids and educators, or millions in additional funding that Republicans have withheld for years," Bolding said in a statement. "With the delta variant running rampant and COVID-19 cases among children on the rise, it's disgusting to put a bounty on spreading this illness to kids and punishing schools that try to operate safely."

Republican Govs. Ron DeSantis of Florida and Greg Abbott of Texas have received considerable national attention for their anti-COVID-protections policies, and for good reason. But Doug Ducey is reminding the public that the GOP's club of reckless and irresponsible governors is growing.