DeVos Vows To Ensure Public Schools Send COVID Relief Funds To Private Schools
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued guidance to public schools earlier in the pandemic asking them to send millions of dollars in federal aid to wealthy private schools. After several states and local districts rejected the guidance, DeVos said she will issue a mandate, according to The Hill.
The CARES Act signed in March allocated emergency funding for schools amid the coronavirus crisis.
DeVos instructed public schools to divert funding to private schools in a manner that critics say would starve public institutions as tax revenues fall amid the pandemic, while benefiting wealthy private schools.
Several local districts and at least two states opted to ignore the guidance after the association representing the nation’s schools superintendents suggested they do so.
DeVos said in a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) on Friday: “The CARES Act is a special, pandemic-related appropriation to benefit all American students, teachers and families. There is nothing in the act suggesting Congress intended to discriminate between children based on public or nonpublic school attendance, as you seem to do. The virus affects everyone.”
She also said that “a growing list of nonpublic schools have announced they will not be able to reopen, and these school closures are concentrated in low-income and middle-class communities.”
DeVos argued that relief aid is not limited by federal education law requiring school districts “to use funding intended for their poorest students to provide ‘equitable services,’” The Hill reported.
Further, she accused state education leaders of having a “reflex to share as little as possible with students and teachers outside of their control” and said she would make her guidance mandatory to “resolve any issues in plenty of time for the next school year.”
According to The New York Times, lawmakers from education committees in the House and Senate, including Senator Lamar Alexander (R-TN), said DeVos’ guidance was flawed.
House Democrats called on the Education Secretary to revise her guidance, saying it would “repurpose hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars intended for public school students to provide services for private school students, in contravention of both the plain reading of the statute and the intent of Congress.”
The Times noted that “A recently passed House bill would limit private schools from obtaining any new emergency relief funding, including equitable services.”
However, “private school leaders have begun an aggressive campaign to lobby Congress and the White House” in their favor.