The U.S. Department of Education is trying to take the K-12 pandemic relief funds from public schools and divert the money to private schools, California, and four other states, argued in a lawsuit filed against the Trump administration on Tuesday.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the lawsuit, which joined Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia. The lawsuit also names Education Minister Betsy DeVos as the accused.
Becerra said the department had illegally interpreted the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which laid down guidelines for the distribution of $ 13.2 billion to schools across the country using Title I funds for family students are provided with low income.
The interpretation of the department will instead allow public schools to receive funding based on their entire student population, which will result in tens of millions of dollars being redirected from public schools in the poorest districts to private institutions with tuition fees similar to those of private universities, it says in the lawsuit.
"Today's announcement is about stopping the Trump administration's recent efforts to steal from working families in order to give them to the very privileged," said Becerra.
The Ministry of Education did not immediately respond to an email asking for a comment.
According to the regulation adopted by DeVos, school districts must postpone part of their help to private schools according to a formula based on the total number of private students in the district.
The policy was challenged by public school officials, who said funding should be split based on the number of low-income students in local private schools rather than their total enrollment. In this way, funding is shared with private schools according to other federal rules that Congress referred to in the legislation on the creation of aid.
But DeVos said funding is separate from other state aid and is designed to support all students.
The rule "creates a wrong choice when school districts have to involve private schools based on their total population or are forced to jump through unnecessary tires to do what Congress intended and to ensure that funds get to schools that." hurt the most, ”Becerra said.
He said the rule undermined Congress's intent and violated the separation of powers set out in the U.S. Constitution.
Becerra said it could cost California public schools $ 1.5 billion in funding.
Becerra said that private schools are not eligible for aid, but he said Congress is asking for these funds to be distributed as needed.
"Some of these private schools have had access to hundreds of billions of dollars from Care's ACT paycheck protection program, unlike California public schools that can't," he said.
In Michigan, officials said the rule could cost public schools at least $ 16 million, including $ 2.6 million each in Detroit, the state's largest district, and Grand Rapids, where DeVo's roots are.
“All students in this country deserve the same chances of training. For this reason, we cannot and will not sit on the sidelines, while critical resources specifically allocated based on low income status can be reallocated by counting students who already have privileges and resources, "said Nessel, A Democrat who announced the lawsuit at a press conference with Democratic Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Head of State Michael Rice.
Rice says Michigan private schools are eligible for $ 5.1 million under the Aid Act, but would receive $ 21.6 million under one of two options listed in the DeVos policy.
"This is enough to buy 63,694 student Chromebooks for $ 259 per Chromebook or personal protective equipment for 33,944 students for $ 486 per student per year," said Rice.
"The United States Secretary of Education has developed guidelines and rules that favor non-public schools at the expense of public schools in a manner that was neither intended nor enforced by Congress," he said.
The Great Lakes Education Project, a Michigan group co-founded by DeVos long before she became education secretary, criticized the lawsuit.
"The corona virus did not discriminate based on the type of schools children attend to Michigan and the governor's order to close every school building in the state," said Beth DeShone, general manager. She accused Michigan leaders of "trying to discriminate against children and deprive them of emergency funding in the midst of a global pandemic simply because of the schools their parents chose".