A federal judge late Wednesday granted the state of Michigan a preliminary injunction in its lawsuit against U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos over the distribution of funding to schools under a federal coronavirus relief package.
The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act allocated $13 billion in emergency education funding to states to support school districts, according to a document from the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor. The funding was allocated for things like sanitizing schools, purchasing educational technology and training teachers to use online tools.
But state officials sued, arguing the guidance the U.S. Department of Education issued on how to actually distribute those funds runs contrary to the law and pushes money toward private schools.
Judge James Donato of the U.S. District Court Northern District of California agreed with the state and others who have joined the suit, writing that “allowing the Department to rewrite the statutory formula for sharing education funds is manifestly not in the public interest.”
The preliminary injunction he issued stops DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education from implementing or enforcing its guidance on the funding distribution against the plaintiffs, which include eight states, the District of Columbia and four school districts. It remains in place until further action by the court as the case proceeds.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer applauded the move.
“We are pleased with the Court’s decision and will continue to fight against the unlawful approach taken by Secretary DeVos to redirect pandemic relief money from public schools to serve her own political agenda,” Nessel said in a statement.
“This is good news for our kids, our educators and families in districts who need this funding most,” Whitmer said in a statement. “CARES Act dollars are designed to provide support to districts in low-income areas. Betsy DeVos’ rule would have stripped dollars away from schools in need of critical funding.”
U.S. Department of Education Press Secretary Angela Morabito said in a statement DeVos has said many times the pandemic affected all students.
“Since public schools want to use the money to benefit all of their students, there’s no reason to think that private schools shouldn’t be able to do the same. It is simply wrong to discriminate against kids and their taxpaying parents solely because they chose a school that worked for them instead of the state run option,” Morabito said.
Note: This story has been updated with comment from the U.S. Department of Education.
COVID-19 PREVENTION TIPS
In addition to washing hands regularly and not touching your face, officials recommend practicing social distancing, assuming anyone may be carrying the virus.
Health officials say you should be staying at least 6 feet away from others and working from home, if possible.
Use disinfecting wipes or disinfecting spray cleaners on frequently-touched surfaces in your home (door handles, faucets, countertops) and carry hand sanitizer with you when you go into places like stores.
Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has also issued executive orders requiring people to wear face coverings over their mouth and nose while in public indoor and crowded outdoor spaces. See an explanation of what that means here.
Additional information is available at Michigan.gov/Coronavirus and CDC.gov/Coronavirus.
For more data on COVID-19 in Michigan, visit https://www.mlive.com/coronavirus/data/.
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