Twenty-six Ariz. Republican lawmakers released a joint statement Wednesday asking Gov. Doug Ducey to withhold federal funding from and take legal action against public school districts that enact mask mandates. The statement also asked Ducey to supply Empowerment Scholarship Accounts to students “trapped within any school district” enacting mask mandates.
ESAs allow certain eligible students — including children of military parents and students living on tribal lands — to seek private school education, according to the Dept. of Education.
"The Arizona legislature, with the Governor concurring, very intentionally enacted the laws at hand to protect Arizonans and Arizona children from the threat of government mandating them to wear a mask or be injected with a vaccine," the statement reads.
Among those who signed the statement are northern Ariz. lawmakers Rep. Walt Blackman, Rep. Brenda Barton, Sen. Wendy Rogers and Sen. Sonny Borelli.
Earlier this summer, the legislature passed a law prohibiting mask mandates in public K-12 schools. The law, passed with the state annual budget, applies to “county, city, town, school district governing board or charter school governing body.”
Several districts, including Flagstaff Unified and Phoenix Unions have nonetheless reinstated mask mandates amid a statewide surge in COVID-19 cases. As of Thursday morning, Aug. 12, all of Arizona's 15 counties were in the CDC's high transmission category for the virus.
The joint statement called the mask mandate “an affront to the very core of our state and nation’s form of government.”
Ducey spokesperson C.J. Karamargin told the Associated Press the mask mandates were not enforceable in the Ariz. schools.