Monday, August 15, 2022

U.S. can’t divert CARES funds from public schools


A federal judge in California issued a permanent injunction last week that prohibits the US Department of Education from enforcing a new rule that would divert Covid-19 relief funds from public to private schools, WZZM-TV (ABC affiliate) reports.

A public school in Harlem, New York City (Fernando Garcia Esteban/iStockPhoto)

The State of Maryland and the Chicago Board of Education, along with several other states and large school districts, joined a lawsuit filed in the US District Court for the Northern District of California, seeking to prevent Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and the US Department of Education from diverting the relief funds to private schools, as she had sought to do with a new rule.

The lawsuit was co-led by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra. On November 9, US District Court Judge James Donato approved a permanent injunction and formally closed the case for good. He then entered a judgement in favor of all plaintiffs.

“This pandemic has greatly impacted students across the country,” WZZM quoted Ms Nessel as saying. “The CARES Act is imperative, as it provides critical funding for our public schools and the resources teachers need to continue safely teaching our youth. This permanent injunction sends a clear message that the publicly funded CARES Act dollars should be used as Congress intended: to educate our public students, and not to serve the political agendas of a select few.”

According to Ms Nessel’s office, the injunction bars the US ED from:

  • Making states and school districts, or local education agencies, calculate shares of CARES Act funding for private schools “in a manner inconsistent with Title I’s calculation for equitable services to private schools”
  • Taking any adverse action against school districts that relied on the original guidance or interim final rule before the plaintiffs’ preliminary injunction entered
  • Limiting CARES Act fund distribution to only public schools that are eligible for or participate in Title I 
  • Requiring that CARES Act funds supplement other funding sources

Besides attorneys general from Michigan, California, and Maryland, and the Chicago Board of Education, plaintiffs included attorneys general of Hawaii, Maine, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia, as well as the City School District for the City of New York, the Cleveland Municipal School District Board of Education, and the San Francisco Unified School District.

According to a press release from the Maryland State Department of Education, the state’s public universities and schools received $10 million in CARES Act funding in September, to be distributed among the state’s colleges and school districts.

In addition to CARES Act funding provided to states, many local jurisdictions have received funding as well, direct from the federal government. Howard County, Maryland, Executive Calvin Ball said he will invest more than $5 million of the county’s CARES funding in the district’s public schools.

Paul Katula
Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

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