The Rio Grande Foundation has signed onto an amicus brief filed Wednesday in Michigan v. DeVos, a critical legal dispute in federal court between a group of state attorneys general (including New Mexico’s Hector Balderas) and the federal Education Department over the availability of CARES Act funding for private schools. The Foundation joins a coalition of 38 state and national groups representing the interests of private schools and parental choice.
As Rio Grande Foundation president Paul Gessing pointed out, “The Rio Grande Foundation has long held that education dollars should fund students, not bureaucracies. COVID-19’s impact on America’s students was not confined to public school sectors. Congress allocated critical funding to both public and private schools with the intent of helping schools reopen safely and serve their students.”
Background: The $2.2 trillion federal CARES Act, passed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, included an Education Stabilization Fund to support schools with the costs of safely reopening and navigating the crisis. The law directed the Department of Education to distribute these funds “equitably” between public and private schools and students but did not dictate exactly how the funds should be distributed.
On June 25, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos issued an interim final rule that gives states and local public-school districts options for how to fairly allocate CARES Act relief to private schools. Many states and local school districts refused to follow the rule. Nine attorneys general and four metropolitan school districts, including Balderas filed a multi-state federal lawsuit against the Education Department challenging the interim final rule and argued that the majority of the funding should be directed to public schools.
This amicus, on behalf of 38 state and national groups, represents the important interests of America’s private schools in this critical debate. COVID-19’s impact on education was not restricted to public schools. With more than 5 million students attending 33,000 schools, WILL and our coalition partners make clear that federal CARES Act relief is critical for the safety and education of the nearly 10% of American students attending private schools.
WILL’s amicus is joined by associations and advocacy groups that represent and support private schools and their families in Wisconsin, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, and throughout the nation, that serve Catholic, Orthodox Jewish, Islamic, Lutheran, other Christian, and independent secular schools, and that collectively educate millions of students.