A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has blocked Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ attempt to reroute federal coronavirus aid from public schools to private schools.
DeVos had issued a rule on June 25 requiring public schools to share more CARES Act funds with private schools than federal law mandates, prompting lawsuits from states as well as organizations such as the NAACP.
U.S. District Judge Barbara J. Rothstein on Aug. 21 issued a preliminary injunction in one of those lawsuits, temporarily halting implementation of the new rule.
The CARES Act included more than $13 billion to help public schools cover pandemic-related costs. DeVos’ rule, which went into effect on July 1, said school districts distributing those funds must spend them only on low-income students in public and private schools or, if a district wants to reach public school students at all income levels, it must also pay for “equitable services” for all private school students in that district. The rule would boost private schools’ share of CARES Act funding from $127 million to $1.5 billion, according to an analysis by the Learning Policy Institute.
The federal Department of Education had argued that states would not suffer irreparable damage if forced to implement the new guidance, a claim Judge Rothstein called “remarkably callous, and blind to the realities of this extraordinary pandemic and the very purpose of the CARES Act: to provide emergency relief where it is most needed.”
NPR, Aug. 23