PHOENIX – Governor Doug Ducey is suing the federal government over the Biden administration's attempt to take away funding for critical education programs aimed at keeping Arizona kids in the classroom.
The suit, filed today in U.S. District Court, seeks to protect federal funding granted to Arizona by Congress through the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Governor Ducey created two programs in August that would use $173 million of those funds to help schools and parents struggling to deal with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury objected, arbitrarily changed its rules and told Arizona last week it would take the funds back.
“The Biden administration is attempting to hold Congressionally-appropriated funds hostage and is trying to bully Arizona into complying with this power-grabbing move,” said Governor Ducey. “They’re going after education programs that are designed to help kids access in-person instruction, ensure schools stay open and give parents the ability to make decisions that are best for their kids.”
The 24-page lawsuit accuses Treasury of a number of unconstitutional violations, including ignoring provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act.
“Unconstitutional overreach by one branch of government over another’s directive should not and cannot get in the way of that,” the Governor said. “In Arizona, our top priority is to get kids caught up and we are using a wide range of resources to make that happen — including federal dollars allocated to our state. Make no mistake, we will always support families and kids, while protecting their right to choose an education that best fits their needs.”
The Governor spoke about the suit during a Fox News interview with Martha MacCallum.
“Arizona is filing a law suit against the Biden administration, against this federal overreach and against the bullying and attacks on our state,” said Governor Ducey. “Joe Biden needs to focus on the border, helping Ukraine or fixing Afghanistan. Why doesn’t he stay in his federal lane and let us educate the children in the state of Arizona.”
In August 2021, Governor Ducey established the Education Plus Up Grant Program for schools following all state laws and remaining open for in-person instruction as well as the COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit Program for parents facing financial and educational barriers due to unnecessary closures and school mandates. The programs are being funded by Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds allocated to the State of Arizona.
On October 5, 2021, Treasury alleged that the state’s use of federal funding was improper and demanded it not be used for the programs. On November 4, Governor Ducey’s office responded with a letter to the Treasury detailing how these programs sought to address the negative economic impacts of COVID-19, as permitted by ARPA, and how the programs were consistent with law and the regulations issued by the Treasury.
On January 14, 2022, Treasury sent Governor Ducey’s Office of Strategic Planning and Budgeting a letter stating that, under newly promulgated rules for the public dollars, the programs were unlawful and attempting to shut the programs down. The Governor immediately responded to this threat that same day, stating further action is forthcoming.