Tucson Unified could lose students, funding over mask mandate

Republican lawmakers ask Gov. Doug Ducey to pursue legal action against districts violating state law
Published: Aug. 11, 2021 at 2:12 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 11, 2021 at 2:33 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Several Republican lawmakers have asked Gov. Doug Ducey to withhold funding from any school district, like Tucson Unified, that have created mask mandates.

The Republicans also want the state to begin legal action against the districts.

Tucson Unified (89 schools, 47,000 students) became the state’s third district to required masks following a meeting on Aug. 5. The other districts are Phoenix Elementary District (14 schools, 5,000 students) and Phoenix Union High School District (22 schools, 28,000 students). The moves may be in defiance of recently passed state law.

“I don’t believe that we’re breaking the law. We’re lucky that the state legislature didn’t have the two thirds majority when it passed this bill and so that requires a 3 month waiting period with the simple majority that they had and so the law doesn’t go into effect until September 29th,” says TUSD board member Dr. Ravi Grivois-Shah.

HB 2898 prohibits K-12 schools from requiring students to become vaccinated or wear masks in the classrooms. The state law was enacted in June but the legislation doesn’t go into effect until Sept. 29. According to the Associated Press, it did have a provision saying “the prohibition is retroactive.”

TUSD board member Natalie Luna Rose says in the end, she feels all this does is hurt the students.

“Frankly the legislature has had a long history of not being favorable towards Tucson Unified and as a parent and board member, and former student of TUSD, I find that to be unconscionable,” says Luna Rose.

“We have over 42,000 students enrolled in TUSD. And I can’t imagine that the state government is going to try to hurt these 42,000 students and their ability to get an education,” says Dr. Grivois-Shah.

Twenty-six state representatives and senators signed the letter and asked for four things to happen. Those demands are:

  • Withhold federal funding from any district not complying with the law.
  • Offer vouchers to families with students in those districts.
  • Send a letter to families reminding them about the mask mandate ban and letting them know about the vouchers.
  • Start legal action against any district defying the state.

“The blatant disregard for the State of Arizona’s authority exhibited by the non-compliant local governments is an affront to the very core of our state and nation’s form of government,” the lawmakers said in the letter. “A resounding message must be delivered to any local government or subdivision of the state considering defying state law—lawlessness will not be tolerated.”

The letter was signed by the following lawmakers:

  • Rep. Jake Hoffman
  • Speaker Pro Tempore Travis Grantham
  • House Majority Whip Leo Biasiucci
  • Rep. Brenda Barton
  • Rep. Walt Blackman
  • Rep. Shawnna Bolick
  • Rep. Judy Burges
  • Rep. Joseph Chaplik
  • Rep. John Fillmore
  • Rep. Mark Finchem
  • Rep. Steve Kaiser
  • Rep. Quang Nguyen
  • Rep. Becky Nutt
  • Rep. Jacqueline Parker
  • Rep. Beverly Pingerelli
  • Rep. Bret Roberts
  • Rep. Justin Wilmeth
  • Senate Majority Whip Sonny Borrelli
  • Sen. Nancy Barto
  • Sen. Sine Kerr
  • Sen. David Livingston
  • Sen. J.D. Mesnard
  • Sen. Warren Petersen
  • Sen. Wendy Rogers
  • Sen. Kelly Townsend
  • Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita

KOLD did receive a statement from Governor Ducey’s team. It says: “We haven’t reviewed it yet, but we’ve been looking at ideas on this topic. The governor is anti-mandate, but pro-vaccine and pro-parental decision on masks and other measures. Parents should decide what’s best for their kids, and those are the kind of policies he will be supporting.”

Copyright 2021 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.