Michigan is joining five other states in suing the U.S. Department of Education over pandemic relief funds, claiming the department run by Secretary Betsy DeVos is attempting to take pandemic relief funds away from K-12 public schools and divert them to private schools.
California, Maine, New Mexico, Wisconsin, and the District of Columbia have joined the lawsuit along with Michigan. They say the department's interim final rule would allow public schools that charge tuition similar to private colleges to get funds based on the total population they serve.
About forty years ago, Betsey DeVos was chair of the Michigan Republican Party and favored a Michigan ballot proposal to pour state public school tax dollars into private schools. The plan was soundly defeated.
Now, as U.S. Education Secretary, Democratic Attorney General Dana Nessel says she's back at it again.
"Betsy DeVos and her longtime MO is to siphon away funds from public schools to private schools at the expense of public school districts," Nessel said on Tuesday.
When Congress passed the CARES act, Nessel contends money was earmarked for disadvantage public schools. But now this lawsuit contends DeVos has adopted a new rule that allegedly looks like Robin Hood in reverse - robbing from the poor to give to the rich.
"We cannot and will not sit on the sidelines while critical funding, specifically allocated based on low-income status, is allowed to be reallocated by counting students who have privileges and resources already available to them," Nessel said
If the DeVos rule is not tossed out by the courts, Detroit schools could lose $2.6 million dollars. The state school superintendent contends private schools will get an extra $16 million. That's money that could have gone to those disadvantaged schools.
"This is enough to buy 63,694 new Chromebooks for students at $259 per Chromebook or to buy personal protective equipment for 33,944 students at 486 dollars per student annually," state school superintendent Dr. Michael Rice said.
According to the lawsuit, the states say the department's interim final rule would allow public schools that charge tuition similar to private colleges to get funds based on the total population they serve.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.