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Michigan suing US Department of Education and Betsy DeVos over pandemic aid

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Posted at 2:07 PM, Jul 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-07 18:22:20-04

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan is suing the U.S. Department of Education and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos over the distribution of coronavirus relief aid.

The issue is over too much of the act's funds going toward private schools and schools in affluent districts.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced the lawsuit today in a news conference with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and State Superintendent Michael Rice.

"CARES Act dollars are designed to provide support to schools in low-income areas, but Betsy DeVos and the Trump administration have a different plan," Whitmer said.

Watch the news conference

Under their new rule, private schools and affluent districts may receive services that Congress intended for disadvantaged students, Whitmer said.

DeVos' rule says coronavirus relief money should be distributed based on the total number of students in any private school that wishes to participate and that equitable services must be provided to all students enrolled, even affluent students.

"This is a virus that has had a disproportionate impact on low-income communities and communities of color," Whitmer said. "Schools in these areas deserve a government that will support them throughout this crisis."

Angela Morabito, press secretary at the U.S. Department of Education, provided FOX 17 with a statement today on the lawsuit:

“While the department does not comment on pending litigation, the secretary has said many times this pandemic affected all students, and the CARES Act requires that funding should be used to help all students. There is no reasonable explanation for debating the use of federal funding to serve both public and private K-12 students when federal funding, including CARES Act funding, flows to both public and private higher education institutions.”

Whitmer also said she negotiated a supplemental budget of $512 million to support the state's school districts. It will reimburse districts for COVID-19-related expenses from the spring and for preparations for returning to in-person education.

An additional $53 million will fund hazard pay for teachers, Whitmer said.

“The secretary of education’s job is to lift up our public schools, not tear them down," Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel said.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in a federal court in California, with six states joining in.