Oral arguments begin against DeVos in lawsuit about pandemic relief to schools

Published: Aug. 14, 2020 at 4:48 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Oral arguments will begin in a lawsuit filed by Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel against U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at 2:30 Tuesday for her department allegedly illegally siphoning funds from pandemic relief for K-12 schools, according to a release from the AG’s office.

The lawsuit was announced July 7 and amended on July 17. It is supported with a comment letter submitted by a coalition including Nessel and California AG Xavier Becerra, on July 31 which argues that the rule is unlawful and unconstitutional, and ignores the severe harms the rule imposes on states and school districts, and their students and teachers, according to the release.

The news release said “As a result of the interim final rule, at least $16 million in Michigan alone would be diverted from public schools to private institutions — in violation of the requirements established by Congress, the Administrative Procedure Act and the U.S. Constitution.”

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) was adopted by Congress and signed into law in late March. A, It allocates $30.75 billion for K-12 schools and higher education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A portion of the bill, approximately $13.2 billion – is distributed to State Education Agencies (SEAs), such as the Michigan Department of Education, which gets nearly $390 million. SEAs then allocate that money to Local Education Agencies (LEAs), which subsequently distribute money to individual schools.

CARES Act money is designed to provide support to schools with low-income students, as it is to be allocated based on the amount of Title I funding each state and school district received in the most recent fiscal year.

“The coalition has already urged the court to immediately enjoin the U.S. Department of Education’s unlawful rule, arguing that it threatens imminent and irreparable harm to Michigan and the other plaintiffs, to schools and to students across the country. As a result of the rule, public schools stand to lose significant CARES Act funds at a moment of crisis, directly contrary to the intent of Congress,” the release said.

The hearing is before Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California and will be publicly accessible online. Viewers can join via zoom link here and should enter the following information to access the session:

Webinar ID: 161 717 1523 Password: 213597

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