Oral arguments to begin in lawsuit against DeVos rule threatening K-12 public school pandemic relief funds

Betsy DeVos

FILE – In this Feb. 27, 2020, file photo, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos pauses as she testifies during a hearing of a House Appropriations Sub-Committee on the fiscal year 2021 budget on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Trump administration is barring most international students and all students who entered the U.S. illegally from receiving emergency college grants approved by Congress as part of a $2.2 trillion coronavirus rescue package. DeVos issued the restriction in new guidelines released Tuesday, April 21, 2020, telling colleges how to distribute more than $6 billion in grants meant to help students cover unexpected costs triggered by the pandemic. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

LANSING (WJMN) – Oral arguments will begin at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in the lawsuit Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed against U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos for her department’s unlawful attempt to siphon pandemic relief funds away from K-12 public schools.     

The lawsuit – announced July 7 and amended on July 17, and supported with a comment letter submitted by the coalition on July 31 – 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.  

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. Among other things, it allocates $30.75 billion for K-12 schools and higher education in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. A portion – 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 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 and should enter the following information to access the session: 

Webinar ID: 161 717 1523 
Password: 213597 

Alternatively, oral arguments may be heard by dialing: 669-254-5252 or 646-828-7666.   

The Court encourages all who plan to attend to review their guidance on participating in Zoom webinars or meetings.  

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