DeVos Plan to Steer Funds to Private Schools Ruled Illegal

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s attempt to give private schools a larger share of federal coronavirus relief dollars is illegal, a federal judge ruled in striking down the policy.

The Education Department announced in May that it would dole out Care Act funds to private schools without regard to “family income, residency, or eligibility based on low achievement.”

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich said in a ruling Friday that doing so would be illegal because the act clearly requires money to be allocated to private schools based on the number of children from low-income families who attend them.

“In some statutory interpretation cases, courts must make sense of vague terms, contradictory provisions, or ‘inartful drafting,’ Friedrich wrote. “This is not one of those cases.”

Friedrich, who was appointed by President Donald Trump, said Congress spoke with “clarity and precision” in outlining the funding formula.

Two other federal judges had already blocked the implementation of the policy, but Friedrich went a step further in striking down the policy altogether.

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The Education Department didn’t return a request for comment.

Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson had accused DeVos of flouting the will of Congress and trying to hijack virus relief funds “to satisfy her own political agenda.”

“Seattle Public Schools would be forced to choose between sending nearly 20% of its Cares Act funds to private schools -- drastically higher than the just over 3% Congress intended -- or deprive 73 of its schools of critical relief funding,” he said in a statement last month.

The Cares Act, passed by Congress in March, included $13.5 billion for elementary and secondary schools.

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