Southern Education Foundation Urges District Court to Protect Public Schools

Organization Files Friend of the Court Brief in NAACP v. DeVos Requesting Court Block “Equitable Services Rule”

August 31, 2020 (Washington, DC) —In an amicus brief filed last Friday, the Southern Education Foundation (SEF) asked the U.S. District Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to block U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ interim equitable services rule and “protect our public schools, which are facing unprecedented hardships as they continue to educate the majority of our nation’s schoolchildren and the majority of our country’s students of color and low-income students.”

The brief was filed in National Association for the Advancement of Colored People v. Elisabeth D. DeVos, in which the NAACP sued to block a rule issued by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) that would divert crucial Coronavirus relief aid in the CARES Act intended to support the needs of public school students to private schools.

ED’s “equitable services rule” forces districts to allocate relief funds to private schools based on the total number of private school students in the district, rather than the total number of low-income private students in the district. Districts that do not comply would face restrictions on their use of the funds to support public schools.

The NAACP asserts, and SEF agrees, that the rule is illegal and will divert hundreds of millions of tax-payer dollars intended to support public schools during the pandemic to private schools which have other sources of revenue, including access to additional relief dollars through Paycheck Protection Program loans.

“Secretary DeVos’ ‘equitable services’ rule is another example of an ongoing concerted effort by the Trump administration to undermine and defund public education,” said SEF President and CEO Raymond C. Pierce. “As an organization with a proud history of advancing equity in education for more than 150 years, the Southern Education Foundation is firmly opposed to any effort to drain funding from the public schools that educate not just the vast majority of students of color, but the vast majority of all students in our nation. The equitable services rule clearly conflicts with Congress’ intention in the CARES Act to provide public schools with the crucial funding they need to provide effective education during a pandemic. This rule is illegal and it is unjust and it should be blocked.”

The brief says, in part:

The [CARES] Act recognizes the greater needs faced by public school students. Public schools within public school districts (“LEAs”) are the primary beneficiaries of the Act and are directed to set aside amounts for the benefit of private school students “in the same manner” as Title I funds are calculated for the benefit of disadvantaged private school students (i.e., based on the number of local students from low-income families who attend private schools from the district). The Secretary has no authority to deviate from the Act’s plain and unambiguous directive.

The NAACP lawsuit is joined by public school parents and school districts and several state attorneys general have also filed lawsuits to block the rule.

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Originally founded in 1867 to educate Black children and children from low-income families in the South, the Southern Education Foundation was a pivotal source of research and data to support legislation and litigation aimed at fighting inequity in education during the civil rights era. The organization today conducts leadership development, research, and advocacy to improve educational opportunities for low-income students and students of color and achieve educational equity in the Southern U.S. It is based in Atlanta, Georgia. Find out more at www.southerneducationfoundation.org.

MEDIA CONTACT:  Gretchen Wright, gwright@southerneducation.org, (202) 421-5830

Dkt 58 2020-08-28 Unopposed Mtn for Leave to File Amicus Brief