In a recent statement released on Friday, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, alleged that her predecessor, Republican Doug Ducey, misused $50 million in federal funds allocated to the state through the American Rescue Plan. According to Hobbs, Ducey directed the grant to the state treasurer during the final hours of his administration, intending to support all-day kindergarten for students who benefit from empowerment scholarship accounts.
These accounts allow parents to utilize tax payments for education expenses and choose the school for their children. However, the governor’s office revealed that the state currently only funds half-day kindergarten for students in public schools, highlighting a discrepancy in the allocation of funds.
Concerns Over Illegitimate Allocation
Expressing her strong disapproval, Governor Hobbs stated, “Illegally giving $50 million to private schools while failing to properly invest in public education is just one egregious example of the previous administration’s blatant disregard for public school students. I will always fight to protect our public schools and work to give every Arizona student the education they deserve.” The governor emphasized her commitment to upholding the law and ensuring equitable distribution of federal funds during her tenure. She added, “Today, we averted a violation of federal law and the State Constitution. In my administration, we are committed to deploying federal funds lawfully and equitably.”
The released statement also indicated that the grant violates several provisions of the state constitution, including those related to equal protection, the gift clause, and the maintenance of a “general and uniform” public school system. Additionally, it claimed that the grant’s utilization does not address educational disparities as stated in the grant agreement, thereby violating the objectives of the American Rescue Plan.
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Exploring Legal Alternatives
In response to the alleged misuse of funds, Governor Hobbs’s office announced its intention to explore alternative legal avenues for utilizing the funds appropriately. The office aims to ensure compliance with state and federal laws while addressing the educational needs of Arizona’s students.
The American Rescue Plan, a comprehensive COVID-19 relief package valued at $1.9 trillion, was signed into law by President Biden in March 2021. It aims to provide financial support for various initiatives, including direct payments to most Americans, vaccine distribution, school reopenings, enhanced unemployment benefits, and aid to state and local governments.
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