California sues Betsy DeVos over rule steering coronavirus aid to private schools

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Michigan AG Nessel takes legal action against US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos over CARES Act interpretation

According to Nessel, a rule issued by DeVos would unfairly limit the ability of public schools to use federal funds provided by the CARES act. The lawsuit is being filed over funding for private and public schools under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice says the CARES Act says that money has to be distributed based on Title One allocations.

"Private schools that cease to exist will just create an added burden for public schools", he said.

Anything less, she says, would fail students and taxpayers.

"Under their new rule, private schools in affluent districts may receive services that Congress intended for disadvantaged students. This is unacceptable, particularly in the midst of a pandemic and given a significant decline in state revenue".

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Becerra contends that is an unlawful interpretation of the CARES act, which allows private schools to get a disproportionate amount of Title I funds - traditionally reserved for low-income students.

"Secretary DeVos has chose to use this public health crisis as another opportunity to advance her personal privatization agenda", Nessel said. Michigan GOP Chairman Laura Cox said, "While Secretary DeVos fights to ensure all schools can safely reopen, it's sad to see that Dana Nessel and Gretchen Whitmer seek to intentionally leave thousands of Michigan children unprotected from a disease that does not care if a child attends a public or private school". At a time when MI schools are facing an unprecedented crisis, every single child deserves the chance to succeed.

"Instead of ignoring congressional intent and diverting funds away from public schools, Secretary DeVos should follow the law", he said. "The Secretary of Education's job is to lift up our public schools, not tear them down".

The CARES Act money distributed to LEAs is designated for 12 allowable purposes under the statute, majority related to COVID-19, like personal protective equipment and technology for remote learning.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the lawsuit, which was joined by Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia.

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Low-income students in private schools by law are entitled to Title I money for "equitable services", such as transportation and tutoring. "There is no reasonable explanation for debating the use of federal funding to serve both public and private K-12 students when federal funding, including CARES Act funding, flows to both public and private higher education institutions", said press secretary Angela Morabito.

But DeVos has said the funding is separate from other federal aid and was meant to support all students.

"They think it's going to be good for them politically, so they keep the schools closed", Trump said at a White House discussion on school plans for the fall.

California and a handful of other states are challenging a U.S. Education Department rule that could funnel millions in coronavirus relief to private schools.

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