Gov. Doug Ducey plans to use $7,000 payments to parents as leverage to keep public schools open during the pandemic, whether the federal government agrees with that use of the money or not. The money would go to families dealing with school closures, Fox News reports. It could be used for child care, transportation, tutoring, and tuition, the state said—apparently including the cost of attending a private or parochial school. In a tweet, Ducey called the move "preemptive action," saying, "We're making sure in-person learning remains an option for all Arizona families and students."
Ducey is going into $10 million in federal coronavirus relief aid to fund the program, per Education Week. Families earning as much as 350% of the federal poverty level are eligible; that's $92,750 for a family of four. Two earlier programs of Ducey's included unauthorized use of federal money under the American Rescue Plan Act, the Treasury Department has said. The department threatened to take back the money, saying it's to be used for "evidence-based efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19." But that hasn't happened, per the Arizona Daily Star.
The program kicks in if a school shuts for even a day because of a COVID-19 outbreak. One of Ducey's plans last year offered the same amount to parents who wanted to pull their child out of a school because it enacted a mask mandate. The Republican governor has also sent federal money only to school districts that don't have mask mandates. The message of Ducey's efforts, a press aide said, is "that the closing of schools should not be an option." (Read more Doug Ducey stories.)