by Tom Joyce
Republican members of Arizona’s congressional delegation have a demand for United States Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen: don’t take federal relief funding away from the state.
Arizona is scheduled to receive $4.2 billion from the federal government as a part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan; it has received nearly $1.2 billion of that money so far.
However, the United States Treasury Department has warned the state that it may forfeit $163 million if it doesn’t change its actions.
The money in question is part of the state’s Education Plus-Up Grant program. Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey announced the program in August. It will provide funding to district and charter schools if they follow all state laws regarding coronavirus and remain open for in-person school learning for the entire school year. Schools that return to remote learning forfeit their funding. One of the rules these school districts have to follow is that they can’t implement a mask mandate.
Last week, the U.S. Treasury told Arizona that it had 60 days to reverse course on its mask mandate ban, or else the Treasury will recoup funds it says are being misused.
Republican Representatives David Schweikert penned a letter alongside three of his colleges Andy Biggs, Debbie Lesko and Paul Gosar, telling the U.S. Treasury to let the state handle its education how it sees fit.
“Unlike other states and school districts that have received hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and still do not have children in classrooms,” they wrote. “Arizonans understand the shortcomings of the one-size-fits-all approach and will continue to fight for children to be in the classroom. Parents deserve the right to make decisions they believe are in the best interest of their child’s health and education, without federal interference at the local level.”
The congressmen also noted that people could wear masks in school if they wanted.
“Furthermore, state law does not prevent children, educators, or other school officials from wearing masks if they personally choose to do so,” they wrote. “Threatening to take funding away from a state that is designing and implementing innovative solutions to meet the unique needs of its residents is an abuse of federal authority and fails to make up for the lost education caused by this virus.”
Arizona has not yet distributed the Education Plus-Up Grant program funding, as schools would have to prove they remained open through the end of the current school year.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Treasury could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.
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Tom Joyce is a contributor to The Center Square.
Photo “David Schweikert” by Kristie Boyd/U.S. House Office of Photography. Photo “Andy Biggs” by U.S. Congress. Photo “Debbie Lesko” by Congresswoman Debbie Lesko. Photo “Paul Gosar” by Rep. Paul Gosar. Background Photo “United States Treasury” by Rchuon24. CC BY-SA 3.0.