The Arizona Agenda's Daily Agenda: The school mask wars continue
But Doug, it's anti-COVID-19 money... And about that press conference.
After failing to shut down school mask mandates with sternly worded tsk-tsks, Gov. Doug Ducey is dangling $163 million that schools could use for, we don’t know, books to force them to “follow all state laws,” including the laws that aren’t actually in effect yet.
Ducey is using federal COVID-19 grant money to effectively bar schools from mandating masks to stop the virus’ spread. (Clever, huh?) Schools that mandate masks — as many have done since Phoenix Union won its argument in Superior Court Monday that the mask mandate ban, like most laws, doesn’t kick in until 90 days after the legislative session ends — would miss out on up to $1,800 extra per pupil funding, courtesy of Uncle Sam.
And for those schools that don’t comply with the not-yet-in-effect mandate? We have another voucher program now incentivizing students to change schools. Ducey announced $10 million, or up to $7,000 per student, for those facing “barriers due to unnecessary closures and school mandates.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton didn’t appreciate the irony of using federal COVID-19 money to help spread COVID-19, and called on U.S Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to tell Ducey that’s not what the money is for and to revoke the state’s American Rescue Plan funds if Ducey follows through.
Even Democratic U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who’s not exactly known for her sharp jabs at Republicans, took a shot at Ducey, calling the policy “the most absurdly dangerous and anti-science step @dougducey has taken (and that’s saying a lot, 2020).”
Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman called it “yet another outrageous attack on public education” by Ducey, who has shown “a remarkable ability to ignore any lessons gained from a year and a half of dealing with COVID-19.”
And Ducey’s former director of the Department of Emergency Management thinks this idea is *facepalm.*
A lawsuit here: A potentially unconstitutional law? In Arizona?? The state got hit with a lawsuit by medical and civil rights groups over a soon-to-be anti-abortion law that, among other things, made it illegal to perform abortions solely over genetic disorders.
A lawsuit there: But a settled lawsuit this time! Pima County will bring back an early voting site to the Pascua Yaqui reservation after the tribe sued the county for removing the location.
A lawsuit everywhere: We’re not saying we’re future-predictors, but that stuff about single-subject problems in budget bills we wrote yesterday was prescient. The Battle of the BRBs is heating up. Phoenix is suing the state after this year’s budget included provisions outlawing citizen reviews of police departments. The City of Phoenix just so happened to approve one of those before the budget passed. We’re sure that was unrelated.
If only we could find the person responsible for this: Meanwhile, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann said the governing process of jamming a bunch of shit into the budget that couldn’t pass on its own was “not fun” and “not the way we govern as a rule.”
Actually, wait, another lawsuit: Voting rights groups filed a federal lawsuit against the state over two new election laws. SB1485 knocks voters off the Permanent Early Voting List if they didn’t vote at least once in the last four elections. SB1003 shortened the time allowed to “cure” a ballot if it needs signature verification.
Tucson thrives on your rage: Republican Rep. Kelly Townsend wants the attorney general to investigate Tucson’s vaccine mandate for employees.
Not today, Ed: Attorney General Mark Brnovich shot down a request from Phoenix City Manager Ed Zuercher to investigate five Phoenix Police officers and the city’s process for filing gang charges, saying his office didn’t have jurisdiction. The Justice Department is looking into the gang charges of protesters as part of its probe into Phoenix PD.
No jokes here, this just sucks: High radiation levels, possibly from uranium mining, forced a school on the Navajo Nation to stop its plans to bring students back in person.
The British aren’t coming: Fully vaxxed United States travelers can skip quarantine if we visit the other side of the pond. The reverse isn’t true, though. And that means there’s little travel to Arizona from the U.K, affecting tourism and reunions, reports the Republic’s Melissa Yeager.
It was, predictably, disrupted by the Stop the Steal crowd, which screamed nonsensical slogans like “one man one vote” over the presenters and press and claimed voting machines were connected to the internet.
Mesnard, a college professor, briefly had to shut down the crowd like a rowdy classroom. “We’ll all just sit here in silence unless there’s going to be some semblance of order,” he said.
At one point, Capitol scribe Howie Fischer screamed back “Will you shut the f… hell up and let him answer?”
Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting’s Maria Polletta and Shaena Montanari are doing what the state won’t: They’re tracking COVID-19 outbreaks in schools.
“A clear picture of school-based COVID-19 outbreaks has so far proven elusive, given the rapidly evolving situation and the fact that neither the Arizona Department of Health nor the Arizona Department of Education publishes a dashboard of statewide COVID cases in schools,” they noted.
If your kid’s school has an outbreak, let them know.
The Grassroots Tea Party Activists of Arizona meets at 6:30 p.m. tonight to hear a presentation on critical race theory from Jana Jackson, a biennial candidate for Legislative District 28 House. It’s at the IHOP on Bell Road in Phoenix.
There’s a virtual meeting at noon today about eviction prevention with Pima County’s Ending Poverty Now! This is part of the ASU Office of Community Health, Engagement and Resiliency THRIVE Resource Café series.
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