PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Arizona health experts lashed out Wednesday at Gov. Doug Ducey's near $13 billion budget they claimed plays politics with the lives of students and teachers.

The spending plan the governor recently signed into law bans mask mandates on the campuses of K-12 schools, public universities, and community colleges. But health experts warned the move was "premature" because children under 12 years old can not get vaccinated and are susceptible to the more contagious variants of COVID-19.

"The decision to prohibit these schools from requiring masks be worn is quite reckless, dangerous, and short-sighted," said Dr. Cadey Harrel, a family physician in Tucson.

Over the past year and a half, masks have become a hot-button political issue, with many Republican politicians arguing that people should not be forced to wear them.

Gov. Ducey was unavailable for comment today. But when he issued an executive order last month blocking universities from requiring vaccinations and masks, Ducey said, "We need to make our public universities available for students to return to learning."

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