by Mary Rose Corkery
A judge blocked an Education Secretary Betsy DeVos policy on Wednesday that transfers COVID-19 relief funds from public school districts to private schools, Politico reported.
U.S. District Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court Northern District of California granted a preliminary injunction for the plaintiffs, order Thursday, blocking release of additional relief funding to private schools.
Under DeVos’ policy, local educational agencies, like school districts, were to distribute a portion of funds from two programs to private schools under the CARES Act, according to the court documents.
“While the Department does not comment on pending litigation, the Secretary has said many times, this pandemic affected all students, and the CARES Act requires that funding should be used to help all students,” U.S. Department of Education press secretary Angela Morabito told the DCNF.
Morabito added that private schools should also be able to use COVID-19 relief funds from the CARES Act to help all their students like public schools do.
“It is simply wrong to discriminate against kids and their taxpaying parents solely because they chose a school that worked for them instead of the state run option,” Morabito continued.
Attorney General Dana Nessel of Michigan, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, praised Donato’s order in Twitter post Thursday.
Big win for Michigan kids! Thanks to my hardworking staff who argued this important case. #SupportPublicSchools
Judge blocks DeVos plan to send more pandemic relief to private school students – POLITICO https://t.co/4fya2E682w
— Dana Nessel (@dananessel) August 27, 2020
“This is good news for our kids, our educators and families in districts who need this funding most,” Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a press release.
“CARES Act dollars are designed to provide support to districts in low-income areas. Betsy DeVos’ rule would have stripped dollars away from schools in need of critical funding. She doesn’t share our priorities for protecting and improving public education. I will continue to work closely with Attorney General Nessel to protect our students, educators, and support staff and ensure CARES Act funding is used to support schools in low-income communities,” Whitmer continued, according to the press release.
“Michigan’s share of the $30.75 billion that the CARES Act allocates to K-12 schools is $390 million,” Ryan Jarvi, press secretary for the Michigan Attorney General’s Office, told the DCNF.
Under CARES Act, “Michigan non-public schools should receive $5.1 million,” Jarvi said. That calculation takes into account the number of low-income students, not the whole number of students going to non-public schools, a method local school districts use when allocating certain funds, Jarvi said.
“In addition to the $5.1 million for non-public schools, the DeVos rule would divert an additional $16.5 (million) of the federal CARES Act funding from public schools in Michigan and instead give the funding to more financially secure nonpublic schools,” Jarvi said.
The additional distribution of funds to nonpublic schools under DeVos’ rule “would be the equivalent of laying off 466 teachers from public schools in Flint, Michigan,” Donato said in his order.
Eight states are part of the lawsuit against DeVos, as well as the District of Columbia, the Cleveland Municipal School District Board of Education, Chicago Public Schools, the New York City Department of Education and the San Francisco Unified School District, according to court documents.
The U.S. District Court Northern District of California’s Office did not immediately respond to the DCNF.
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Mary Rose Corkery is a reporter for the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Photo “Betsy DeVos” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0.