A federal judge in Washington on Friday dismissed the policies of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who would have sent millions in coronavirus relief to private schools in a ruling that has nationwide implications.
U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a President Trump-appointed representative, admitted the plan DeVos unveiled this summer to remove more of the $ 16 billion Congress passed as part of the K-12 emergency funding to redirect from public schools to private schools. The judge found the rule to be illegal and DeVos’ actions to better assist private schools contradicted the intention of Congress to receive the money under the CARES Act.
“Thus the preliminary final regulation of the ministry, which contradicts the clear text of the statute, is void,”
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The ruling was in response to a lawsuit by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), public school districts, families and other public school advocates suing DeVos in federal court. They feared the DeVos Rule, which provided a new formula for allocating coronavirus funds, would divert resources from public schools, the majority of whom are not white, to private schools with more white and wealthy students, data shows.
Several states, including Washington, Michigan, California, Maine, New Mexico, and Wisconsin, filed separate lawsuits to overturn DeVos’ rule. Unlike judges in the temporary relief cases, the federal judge made a permanent nationwide ruling on Friday, said Wendy Lecker, senior attorney for the Education Law Center who represented plaintiffs.
“This is a summary judgment, so the case is closed,” Tamerlin Godley, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, told Fox News.
Godley, a partner at Munger, Tolles and Olson LLP, said the ruling sends “powerful” message from a federal judge in DC and a Trump-appointed employee.
“It’s a strong statement that it wasn’t legal,” she said.
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The Trump administration could appeal the ruling to reinstate the rule. An education spokeswoman Angela Morabito told Fox News Saturday, “We are reviewing the decision and considering our options.”
The court ruling was first reported by Politico.
Congress passed the $ 2 trillion CARES bill in March. The massive economic program dealt with the coronavirus pandemic and the economic consequences. There was more than $ 16 billion between two K-12 school funding programs: $ 13.2 billion for the Elementary and Secondary Education Assistance Fund and another $ 3 billion that governors could use for districts that are severely affected by COVID-19.
DeVos, a long-time school choice advocate, announced a rule by the Department of Education in June on how local school districts could spend the money. Rather than allocating funds to private schools based on the number of low-income students, she wanted the number to be based on the total number of private students in the district, a much larger number. If districts don’t stick to the formula, it could limit the way they use their funds.
DeVos formulated the action as a fairer way to distribute funds to students regardless of their school.
“The CARES Act is a special, pandemic-related appropriation that benefits all American students, teachers and families affected by coronavirus,” DeVos said at the time. “There is nothing in the passed law that would allow districts to discriminate against children and teachers for attending and working in private schools.”
The impact on some districts was enormous. California’s Pasadena Unified School District, one of the plaintiffs in the NAACP case, would have to allocate approximately 2% of its CARES Act funding to private students. But under DeVos’ rule, the district would have to divert 40% of emergency funding to private schools, Godley said.
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Now local counties only need to fund private schools based on the number of pupils in poverty attending those private schools versus the total private school population.
“When it is completely cleared everything is set,” said Godley. “You know what your budget will be, and we have minimized the amounts needed for private schools.”