09-18-2020  5:12 pm   •   PDX and SEA Weather
Vice President Mike Pence and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, right, visit with teacher Allison Combs, left, and her fourth grade students at Thales Academy, which reopened to students in Apex, N.C., Wednesday, July 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
By The Skanner News
Published: 04 August 2020

WASHINGTON, D.C. [08/04/20] – Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici, Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, and Representatives Peter DeFazio and Earl Blumenauer called on the U.S. Department of Education to rescind a rule that would take up to $11,310,291 from Oregon public schools and redirect it to private schools, calling it unlawful, unfair, illogical, and impossible.  

The Representatives and Senators responded to an interim final rule from the U.S. Department of Education that incorrectly interprets the equitable services provision of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) and improperly diverts federal emergency aid dollars intended for public schools to private school students—without regard to need or income. Their letter details the numerous ways that the Department’s rule disregards the CARES Act and existing law, including waiving the mandatory 30-day waiting period for this rule to take effect. 

“Secretary DeVos continues to willfully disregard the intent of the CARES Act, which is to help students in our public schools get through the pandemic by providing equitable assistance,” said Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici. “Public school teachers and staff in Oregon are working hard to prepare for the coming school year, and they need all the resources we can deploy to educate students safely and equitably. We will not allow this unlawful, ideological ploy by Betsy DeVos to push through a misguided rule that would take $11 million from our public school students and send it to private schools.” 

“Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos deserve a failing grade in education policy for siphoning more than $11 million from public schools working hard to keep Oregon students connected and learning during a public health crisis,” U.S. Senator Ron Wyden said. 

“The administration’s scheme to rip away support for our state’s schoolchildren and their teachers lacks any legal or moral foundation, and must be rescinded.”   

“Secretary DeVos seems to think she’s not the Secretary of Education, but the Secretary of Private Education,” said U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley. “Time and time again, Secretary DeVos has tried to divert taxpayer dollars and support away from public schools and the students who need it most, and into the hands of private schools. Now, the Department is coming up with a convoluted misinterpretation of straightforward language setting funding aside for our public schools during this pandemic crisis, and sending that funding to private school students, regardless of their families’ wealth. That is both morally and legally unacceptable, and we’re demanding that this misguided rule be rescinded immediately.” 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a crisis in America’s schools, exacerbating the divide between low-income and wealthy families,” said Rep. Peter DeFazio.

“It’s imperative that funds from the CARES Act go towards our nation’s public schools to help the students that are most at-risk of being left behind. America’s students are already struggling to compete in our globalized economy, and coronavirus has only put our students further behind. I firmly believe that if we do not invest in our public school students now, we will pay later.”

“Congress passed the CARES Act to ensure our students and teachers get the support they need during this pandemic, but Betsy DeVos – a billionaire who has made a career out of undermining public education – is once again trying to weaken public schools,” said Congressman Earl Blumenauer. “Her department’s blatant mischaracterization of this legislation will divert millions of federal emergency aid dollars intended for public schools to private schools, causing unnecessary harm to many of our most vulnerable students. This rule should be rescinded immediately.”

The full letter can be read here

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Kevin Saddler