DeVos scheme to distribute more relief money to private schools is scuttled for good

Betsy DeVos

This week, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was forced to reverse course on her controversial plan to give a disproportionate amount of CARES Act funding to private schools at the expense of public schools. DeVos’ reluctant reversal came after the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ordered that her plan be vacated because the rule that she put in place violated federal law as it directly went against the U.S. Congress’s intention by passing the CARES Act. 

In passing the CARES Act, lawmakers on either side of the aisle agreed that the funding should be distributed to private and public schools using the same formula in which all federal aid is traditionally distributed based on the number of children from low-income families which the schools served, but DeVos’ plan to distribute the aid would have based the distribution on the total numbers of children attending private schools, regardless of whether students were considered low-income or not. In July, DeVos backed off slightly on this rule by saying that any money received by private schools had to be spent for the benefit of students from low-income families, but this plan would be impossible to implement or regulate and still would have sent hundreds of millions of dollars more to private schools than Congress had intended. 

The court order for DeVos to vacate the rule altogether will ensure a more equitable distribution of CARES Act funds across Texas. The Texas Education Agency updated its guidance to LEAs (Local Education Authorities) to reflect the reversal of DeVos’ plan, ordering all the LEAs who were planning to distribute money on DeVos’ formula to instead use the more equitable, traditional distribution formula. Public dollars will still be sent to private schools, but private schools will no longer be given an extreme, disproportionate advantage as DeVos had originally planned.