Federal Judge Halts Controversial Rule Sending CARES Funds to Private Schools

In Washington, a federal court has ordered a preliminary injunction against United States Department of Education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos from implementing an interim final rule on distribution of CARES Act funding.

The interim final rule, issued in June, gives districts the choice between poverty-based or enrollment-based formulas in their distribution of CARES Act funds for education. In choosing the poverty-based formula, districts would be required to fund only Title I schools while also distributing funds to low-income students in private schools. The enrollment-based formula would require districts to allocate money for private schools proportional to their enrollment if they choose to provide emergency aid to all public schools.

Judge Barbara J. Rothstein claimed the federal interpretation is “remarkably callous, and blind to the realities of this extraordinary pandemic.” While Rothstein’s decision only affects Washington schools impacted by the lawsuit, there are currently two additional cases in Washington D.C. and California (joined by Michigan). In order for the ruling to be blocked nationwide, all jurisdictions would need to join and win lawsuits to stop it from going into effect; the case would need to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court; or the U.S. Education Department would need to withdraw it.

From Education Dive:

When the interim final rule was released, districts and education organizations immediately expressed concern funds would be misdirected to private schools. Rothstein said as such in her decision, adding the department’s rule was “forcing the State to divert funds from public schools,” which “ignores the extraordinary circumstances facing the State and its most disadvantaged students.”

An analysis by the Learning Policy Institute shows if all districts choose to spend their federal emergency aid on all public schools rather than just Title I schools, they would also have to provide over a billion more to private schools. Some legislators on both sides of the aisle have questioned this rule.

Stay tuned to Conduit Street for more coverage.

Previous Conduit Street Coverage: Public Schools Required to Share Federal Aid with Private Institutions