California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel are leading a six state lawsuit against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos with claims of unlawful attempt to siphon pandemic relief funds away from K-12 public schools.
California, Maine, Michigan, New Mexico, Washington D.C. and Wisconsin are partnering on the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
On March 27, Congress enacted the CARES Act in response to the ongoing pandemic and its impacts across the country. Under the act, DeVos is required to allocate funding to help schools prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19. As part of the CARES Act, Congress set forth a formula, through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, for the distribution of $13.2 billion in aid to K-12 schools nationwide.
As part of the act, aid to K-12 schools is required to be distributed in line with Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (Title I), which are generally aimed at helping children from low-income families across the country.
Under the CARES Act, private schools are only eligible for funds in certain circumstances in line with Title I criteria.
However, DeVos required the inclusion of private schools based on their population instead of their income as stated by the CARES Act. The DeVos rule allows private schools with expensive tuitions to siphon the emergency funds from the poorest schools with the highest enrollment of low-income students.
Schools can spend the CARES Act money on things like personal protective equipment and remote learning infrastructure.
“Secretary DeVos has decided to use this public health crisis as another opportunity to advance her personal privatization agenda,” Nessel said. “Instead of sending relief money to the students most in need as required under the CARES Act, she has abused the Department of Education’s rulemaking power to redirect money to private schools.”