Rep. Grijalva asks for investigation into Gov. Ducey
Over state spending of federal funds
TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva is asking the US Education Department to determine if Gov. Doug Ducey’s decision to withhold funding from school districts which have approved a mask mandate is legal.
Ducey has $163 million in grant money from the American Rescue Plan to give to school districts to help finance reopening their schools for in person learning.
“The intent of Congress was to help schools with reopening, safety, public health, infrastructure, ventilation,” said Grijalva. “Essentially assisting schools with what they can’t budget for.”
But Ducey is using the money to try to force districts to abide by his directives and a new state law which prohibits districts from imposing a mask mandate.
Tucson Unified School District is one of nearly a dozen districts which have defied the law and now require indoors for all students, staff and teachers.
The districts are scheduled to receive $1,800 per student which for a district like TUSD with 45,000 students amounts to a significant amount.
Ducey says he will withhold that money from the district if it doesn’t comply with his order.
“That money is not to be used in this way,” Grijalva said. “You can’t use it for this.”
Congressman Grijalva says Congress had specific uses in mind when it passed the American Rescue Plan and what the governor is doing was not part of the plan.
“We feel that extortion and blackmail that Ducey is doing to get his way doesn’t fit legally into that,” Grijalva said. “So we need to challenge that.”-
The Department of Education fired off a letter to Ducey within hours of Grijalva’s request.
It says in part “The Department stands with these dedicated educators who are working to safely to reopen schools and maintain safe in person instruction”, letting the governor know where it stands on the issue.
The US Treasury also weighed in: “No state should use federal funds to prevent or discourage schools from using evidence based approaches to stopping the spread of COVID-19. Treasury is monitoring all proposed expenditures and expects any state or local government that uses State and Local funds in violation of the eligible uses to repay the misused funds to the federal government.”
Still, the governor has his supporters, including State Sen. Kelly Townsend, a Republican from District 16.
“I think that money originally belongs to Arizonans and so Arizona has state’s rights,” she said. “And I believe we ought to exercise that.”
She feels the governor was forced into the position by the actions of the school districts.
“This is a very unfortunate place that we find ourselves,” Townsend said. “I’m sorry the governor had to take that stance.”
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