TUCSON, Ariz. – Today, Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-03) urged Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to comply with the Treasury Department’s request to redesignate American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding as intended to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and protect students and school staff from the ongoing pandemic.
This letter was sent in response to Governor Ducey’s recently announced Open for Learning Recovery Benefit program, an unlawful program which aims to provide up to $7000 in vouchers to family’s experiencing school closures instead of implementing COVID-19 mitigation measures and public health strategies that provide critical resources to safely keep schools open. Rep. Grijalva previously questioned the legality of the Ducey administration’s new voucher program when it was announced in early January.
In the letter, Rep. Grijalva calls out Gov. Ducey’s failure to act, his plan to use federal funding to dismantle public schools and undermine the health and safety of Arizona school staff and students:
“Congressional intent is clear – the allocation of federal dollars through American Rescue Plan (ARP) was intended to support states in their efforts to keep essential government services operating safely for our constituents. Instead of using these funds as intended to take mitigation actions, your policies do the opposite. They undermine necessary public health protocols and punish schools for your failure to act. This plan is a clear attempt to dismantle public schools, not to protect students and school staff to keep schools open. Consequently, your actions will exacerbate this public health crisis and divert ARP funds from their intended purpose to be awarded as school vouchers…
We must do all that is necessary to protect children. It is unacceptable to solely place the burden of keeping our schools safely open for in-person learning and fighting COVID on our children, their families and the school staff serving them. Healthy teachers and school staff keep schools open, yet Arizona schools are nearing critical staff shortages. The latest surge exacerbates an existing educator shortage in this state in which one of five vacancies remained unfilled in October. This announcement is simply the latest blow to teachers already experiencing the lowest pay in the nation.
I respectfully urge you to comply with the Treasury Department request to remediate and redirect ARP funding to their eligible and intended purposes, and to discontinue the practices which disproportionally divert funds from protecting students and school staff. Thank you for your consideration of this urgent request.”
The full letter can be found here.