In July 2020, federal officials issued an illegal rule that would siphon over $1 billion in emergency aid from public schools to private schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The Southern Poverty Law Center and its allies filed a lawsuit challenging the rule issued by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the Department of Education. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the NAACP, public school parents and school districts.
Under the rule, school districts would have to divert more COVID-19 emergency funding for “equitable services” to private school students than the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act allows or else face onerous restrictions on the use of those funds. Both options violated the clear language and intent of the CARES Act – passed by Congress to make unrestricted emergency funds available to serve public school students nationwide – and threatened to undermine district efforts to adequately serve students who need services and support due to the pandemic.
In September 2020, a federal judge sided with the plaintiffs by invalidating the rule as a violation of the CARES Act. Devos admitted defeat and notified state education officials that she would not appeal.