by Cole Lauterbach
President Joe Biden’s latest plan to combat the spread of COVID-19 will take the teeth out of an Arizona law that prohibits mask and vaccination mandates.
The president’s plan, which orders any private company that employs 100 or more people to vaccinate their employees by mid-January or face fines, includes new tax dollars to reimburse any school district that faces a monetary punishment for implementing a mask mandate.
“If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way,” Biden said Thursday.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a measure that banned any type of mask mandate in the state’s schools and also forbade any type of vaccination requirements as a condition of access or patronizing most businesses.
Ducey announced a $163 million increase in funding for public schools in August to be disbursed on a per-pupil basis but only if schools were following state laws and allowing students to attend class without a mask.
Details of Biden’s announcement aren’t finalized but Ducey and others have vowed to challenge the president’s edicts.
“The president said yesterday that he will use his powers to get Republican governors ‘out of the way,’ ” Ducey said Friday in a statement. “No, Mr. President, the American people need you to get a grip.”
More than 40 Arizona schools have chosen to ignore the state mask mandate ban. Even though it goes into effect later this month, lawmakers included a retroactive provision in the state budget that covered the beginning of the school year.
A spokesman for Arizona Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman said Friday the Arizona Department of Education is reviewing Biden’s order with state and federal partners.
Biden said last month schools facing state funding cuts could use funds from the American Rescue Plan Act to supplant that money.
A survey paid for by the Arizona Public Health Association, whose director is a frequent critic of Ducey, and the Arizona School Boards Association conducted Aug. 30-Aug. 31 found 57% of those polled agreed that “individuals should wear masks while in local government, public schools and charter schools.”
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Cole Lauterbach is a regional editor for The Center Square covering Arizona, California, Oregon, and Washington. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.