Betsy DeVos Stealing COVID-19 Aid From Public School Peter To Pay Private School Chad
When we last checked in on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, she was making life harder for sexual assault victims on college campuses. She only has about seven months left in this job so she's not about to rest on her evil laurels. Congressional Democrats have accused DeVos of funneling hundreds of millions of dollars — or what she'd consider 12 bananas — in coronavirus aid money to those lovable private schools.
The $2 trillion coronavirus relief package, known as the CARES Act because the acronym must express intent, included $30 billion for education with $14.5 billion funding eskimo poetry at our colleges and universities and at least $13.5 billion going to the nation's K-12 schools as part of an Education Stabilization Fund. This would protect jobs and keep staff paid during the shutdowns. It would also assist schools in transitioning to distance learning, which is going well except for the “kids still in your house, breaking shit" part.
DeVos quickly issued guidance suggesting that private schools should benefit from this sweet stimmy. It was under the guise of “providing equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools." This is one of those rare times when we'd say share the wealth; if everyone needs emergency help, everyone needs it! And the CARES Act agreed, making provisions for private school students too. But DeVos contends that private schools should receive these public funds based on how many students they service overall rather than the number of low-income students in their schools, which is how the federal government normally distributes Title I money. This means low-income students — whose families and communities are hit the hardest economically and physically from COVID-19 — would have to hand the pot over to their rich private-school student non-comrades. Just like in life!
You can read a letter from Rep. Bobby Scott, Sen. Patty Murray, and Rep. Rosa DeLauro calling out DeVos's fuckery here. Here's a snip!
In Louisiana, under the low-income student formula, the state Department of Education reports private school students would receive services worth $8.6 million of the state's CARES Act relief money. Under the department's broader interpretation, that share would jump to $31.5 million — a 267% increase.
DeVos has long wanted to wreck public schools, and COVID-19 is a crisis she's not letting go to waste. She likes to jibber jabber about how we should invest in “students" and not “buildings," as if it doesn't matter if the buildings poor students are in collapse around them. Her actions are especially sinister now as data show that COVID-19 does indeed discriminate based on race and income level.
The Education Department's guidance isn't legally binding, and it's not just leaders in blue states telling DeVos to fuck off. Indiana's superintendent of public instruction, Jennifer McCormick — a Republican — announced that she's not following the guidance. McCormick even described it as a “political agenda" game.
Angela Morabito, press secretary for the Education Department, countered that only counting Title 1 students would place "non-public school students and teachers at a disadvantage that Congress did not intend." Oh boo-hoo. Now, these hacks care about “fairness"? Private schools are inherently unfair, and no family is prevented from sending their kids to public schools.
Morabito is also dead wrong about congressional intent. Even the Republican chair of the Senate education committee, Lamar Alexander, disagrees with DeVos's cash grab.
I thought, and I think most of Congress thought, that money from the CARES Act would be distributed in the same way that Title I is distributed.
We are so close to having a real Education secretary, but there appears no limit to the damage DeVos will try to inflict before she finally melts away.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).