Court halts DeVos scheme for diverting pandemic aid to private schools

U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos (“Betsy DeVos” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0)

An attempt by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos to divert federal coronavirus aid for public schools to private-school coffers was halted by the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia last Friday. In NAACP v. DeVos, the court ruled that DeVos and the  Department of Education violated the CARES Act when they issued a regulation that would divert emergency relief funds from public school school districts to private schools. It required districts to give more funding for “equitable services” to private school students than the law allows or face heavy restrictions on the use of those funds in their public schools.

The regulation would have dramatically reduced resources available to public school children during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially taking a toll on historically marginalized student populations, including low-income students and students of color.  A coalition of educational equity organizations in Texas, including Texas AFT, submitted an amicus brief supporting the plaintiff in the lawsuit. According to the Intercultural Development Research Association, the rule would have required 185 Texas public school districts to set aside an additional $38.7 million in relief funds to private schools within their district boundaries.

The CARES Act relief funds are necessary for public schools to make sure that students are able to have a safe learning environment. Public school districts nationwide have had to juggle unique challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, including adapting to online learning, providing technology for low-income students, and maintaining quality of education.