Cartoon dubious rich person Betsy DeVos issued a new rule on Thursday that will require public schools to share more of the CARES Act relief funds—meant for public schools—with private schools. Specifically, DeVos’ rule will cut into the already low $13.5 billion allotted for the country’s public K-12 schools. According to NPR, the education secretary’s new rule would re-imagine the intention of the CARES Act funds to mean that public schools must pay for tutoring and transportation for private school students. This new “reading of the law” would take the $127 million already being received by private schools and add another $1.23 billion. That’s a 10-fold increase.
As Daily Kos’ Laura Clawson reported back in May, DeVos’ Department of Education has attempted to cajole the public into believing that private schools—particularly religious private schools—are in the same boat as public schools. A claim that is not exactly true, regardless of decontextualized reporting by The New York Times. More importantly, the new rules set out by DeVos restrict public school districts’ ability to use the funds for broader pandemic needs, like paying all staff and cleaning all facilities.
DeVos, like all Trump administration officials, is a Clue-caricature villain. She has already made sure that people in need of the coronavirus relief, like DACA students, will get none. The pandemic is exposing the very tough reality that there are things and institutions in our society where if we want them to survive, we will need to give them money and help them weather our country’s leadership’s incompetence in handling the pandemic. The problem that private schools—or “non-public” schools, as DeVos and others like to rebrand them—have is that they only work if American taxpayers fund them. This is identical issue to the issue that public schools have. The difference is that public schools must follow considerably better vetted policies of equality than private institutions.
The novel coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the bad behaviors and exposed more of our broken infrastructures. The DeVos money grab is just a sharper chance for DeVos and privatization acolytes to take more of the public’s money for private interests.