Public Schools Required to Share Federal Aid with Private Institutions

United States Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced that public school superintendents will be required to share COVID-19 rescue funds with private schools.

The Maryland State Board of Education voted to continue with traditional disbursement of equitable services for nonpublic schools and students in accordance with Title I criteria. 

In a letter to the Council of Chief State School Officers, DeVos announced that “there is nothing in the act suggesting Congress intended to discriminate between children based on public or nonpublic school attendance” and issued guidance that directs school districts to increase the share of dollars they spend on students in private schools. While federal education law requires districts to use funding to provide “equitable services” for the poorest students attending private schools, the U.S. Department of Education said “districts should use their emergency funding, which was doled out based on student poverty rates, to support all students attending private schools in their districts, regardless of income.”

Another bill, recently passed in the House of Representatives, would limit private schools from obtaining emergency relief funding at all, including equitable services funding. The bill would restrict DeVos’s ability to use around $58 billion in additional relief for private schools instead of K-12 school districts.

From the New York Times:

Private school groups lobbying Congress say that mass closings would also hurt public schools. If 20 percent of private school students have to be absorbed into the public school system, it would cost the public system about $15 billion, according to estimates from those groups.

Public school groups said that the argument proved their point.

“I think it’s more proof that we need to be focused on public education, because if public education is not fully funded, there is no fall back,” said Maggie Garrett, a co-chairwoman of the National Coalition for Public Education, which represents more than 50 national organizations that oppose private school vouchers.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act included $30 billion for education institutions affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. When broken down, the bill contains about $14 billion for higher education, $13.5 billion to elementary and secondary schools, with the rest going to state governments. DeVos has created “microgrants” for parents of elementary and secondary students to pay for educational services as well as set aside close to $350 million for colleges regardless of need.