Tester, Casey to Betsy DeVos: Scrap Distorted Guidance and Get Emergency Funding to K-12 Schools Without Delay

Senators criticize Education Secretary for ignoring congressional intent, failing to support schools that need help most

U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) today slammed Education Secretary Betsy DeVos for failing to get emergency support to school districts during the pandemic and urged her to follow congressional intent when allocating coronavirus relief funds to elementary and secondary schools.

Tester, Casey and a group of their colleagues wrote in a formal comment on DeVos’ proposed rule that while Congress included more than $30 billion in Education Stabilization Funds in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to address problems arising from the coronavirus pandemic, DeVos is deliberately misinterpreting the letter of the law to divert those funds towards private schools and away from where they are needed most.

“As the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic continues to spread across our nation, our education system is facing unprecedented disruption. During this time, it is critical that we provide school districts with resources as quickly as possible, and that we target these funds to districts with the highest need,” the Senators wrote. “…This interim final rule contradicts the plain language of the CARES Act, contradicts congressional intent, and has caused unnecessary delays in getting emergency education funds to school districts. We respectfully urge you to withdraw this rule.”

DeVos published an interim final rule on July 1 that willfully ignores congressional intent by misinterpreting language in the CARES Act. The rule directs school districts to calculate their CARES Act funding based on the total number of students in a district, instead of the number of low-income students as the law requires. DeVos’ flawed interpretation has caused delays in getting critical relief funding to schools and wasted time and taxpayer dollars.

“Though all communities are affected by Covid-19, they are not all affected equally,” Tester and his colleagues continued. “While all schools have faced disruptions, school districts serving higher numbers of low-income students have had to not only transition academic services, but also ensure children have access to school meals and necessary technology. As federal funds are allocated, it is critical that they be targeted to school districts serving students and families with the greatest need.”

Tester previously urged DeVos to reverse course and rescind earlier informal guidance from the Department of Education on emergency school district funding, and fought to make sure the Education Stabilization Fund was included in the CARES Act.

Tester and Casey were joined by Senators Sherrod Brown, Elizabeth Warren, Chris Van Hollen, Tina Smith, Jack Reed, Mark Warner, Tim Kaine, Angus King, Jacky Rosen, Ben Cardin, Debbie Stabenow, Jeanne Shaheen, Mazie Hirono, Cory Booker, Amy Klobuchar, and Robert Menendez.

The Senators’ letter is available HERE.