DeVos CARES Act Order Funnels Millions to Wealthier Private Schools

The CARES Act was supposed to support struggling public schools. Instead, U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is directing these funds to private and parochial schools, some of whom have already received funding from PPP loans.

Michigan is part of a group of six states, including the District of Columbia, suing U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for redirecting millions of dollars to private schools under the CARES Act. 

“In Michigan specifically, you’re talking about $16.4 million going to private school students who are not low-income, that would otherwise have gone to students in places like Flint, Detroit and Grand Rapids.” – Koby Levin, Chalkbeat 

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel has called this move by Secretary DeVos an unlawful interpretation of the CARES Act, which gave $31 billion in aid to K-12 schools. 

Listen: How Secretary DeVos order impacts private and public school education funding.


Koby Levin is a reporter for Chalkbeat who covers inequity in schools and has been reporting on Michigan’s involvement in a lawsuit against Secretary DeVos over school Coronavirus funding. 

Levin says that DeVos’ intent was for both private schools and public schools to benefit from the relief package, as many private schools are expecting reduced enrollment due to the pandemic. Despite the expected economic strain, “in Michigan, millions of dollars, if not tens of millions, are actually going to private schools and parochial schools, so they are getting some support from the government in that way,” says Levin.“The school dollars that DeVos wants to send would be in addition to that support.” 

Levin explains that the debate around school funding should be framed around the divide between low-income and affluent students instead of public and private schools, which leaves more room for nuance when determining who actually needs support. 

“The shift that Betsy DeVos is making would have the effect of moving a substantial amount of money from schools that enroll those low-income kids to schools that enroll more affluent kids, who are going to have more protection from the many challenges of the virus anyways,” says Levin.

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