In a June 3 letter, Education Law Center calls on New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal to intervene and advise the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) not to follow U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ legally erroneous guidance on allocating emergency relief funds to schools under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
DeVos’ guidance to states contradicts both the CARES Act and the federal Title I statute governing the allocation of CARES Act funds. Instead of maintaining Title I distribution to public schools, which includes the setting aside of funding for “equitable services” for low-income private school students residing within a district, DeVos states that funding should be allocated for all private school students, even the most wealthy.
At least nine states, including Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington, and Wisconsin, have rejected the DeVos guidance because it conflicts with Congress’ express provisions and intent in the CARES Act.
“Our public school students, especially in districts segregated by poverty and race across New Jersey, need Attorney General Grewal to intervene on their behalf to oppose Secretary DeVos’ blatantly illegal attempt to siphon off more public funds for private schools, even the most elite prep and independent schools,” said David Sciarra, ELC Executive Director.
In May, ELC sent two separate requests to Governor Phil Murphy and state officials explaining the Secretary’s clear legal error in directing states to fund all private school students, regardless of family income. Following the Secretary’s directive would force New Jersey school districts to lose millions in federal funds urgently needed to provide internet connectivity, devices and other services to public school students during school closure, especially in high poverty districts.
Governor Murphy has not responded to ELC’s requests that NJDOE notify school districts that they are only required to set aside CARES Act funds for poor private school students.
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