The White House has ordered Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to stop using pandemic aid on education grants reserved solely for schools without mask mandates. The two programs that Ducey established in August were “not a permissible use” of federally allocated resources, according to a letter from the Treasury Department. The Associated Press reports that the programs were created to pressure school districts that have gone against the state’s mask mandate ban. One, a $163 million grant, has only been made available to schools without mandates. The second, a $10 million initiative that resembles the state’s current private school grant program, offers vouchers worth up to $7,000 per student if their public school, among other conditions, requires masks or tells students to quarantine after exposure to COVID.
The letter orders the state to outline a plan to “remediate” the situation within 30 days. A spokesperson for Ducey called the demand “baffling,” saying their programs give “families in need the opportunity to access educational resources.” Arizona is one of at least eight states that ban mask requirements in public schools, contradicting CDC guidance.