Michigan AG Nessel takes legal action against US Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos over CARES Act interpretation

Michigan AG Nessel speaks during Tuesday's press conference.
Michigan AG Nessel speaks during Tuesday's press conference.(Tyler Markle)
Published: Jul. 7, 2020 at 5:42 PM EDT
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Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel is one of six Attorneys General in the nation now embroiled in a legal challenge tonight with United States Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

In a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Nessel, with the support of Governor Gretchen Whitmer outlined the challenge, alleging that DeVos' interpretation of the CARES Act has made an uneven playing field for public and private schools.

The CARES Act is meant to allocate funds to school districts, public and private based on the need of students. That is contradicted by a new rule from Secretary DeVos on July 1.

“Secretary DeVos’ rule and guidance ignores the plain language of the CARES act and instead directs local education agencies to choose between two options for allocating cares act funds, neither of which actually exist in the cares act,” said Nessel.

DeVos' ruling makes it so that districts can allocate funds to private schools based on the total number of students, regardless of income level; or funds can be allocated to only Title One schools.

"Because of the anticipated financial challenges that face our state in the months and years ahead, we must fight for every single dollar available for education," said Nessel.

The legal complaint filed with the United States’ District Court System asks that DeVos’ rule is deemed unlawful.

"Michigan kids simply cannot afford for Betsy DeVos to play politics with their education and that's why I am committed to using all of the resources at my disposal to fight for and on behalf of our students, teachers, and schools," said Nessel.

Michigan has more than half a billion dollars in cares act funding to allocate to school districts. Governor Whitmer says that she is committed to making sure funds are divided in an equitable manner.

Nessel is joined in this challenge by the Attorneys General of California, the District of Columbia, Maine, New Mexico, and Wisconsin.

In a press release late Tuesday afternoon, the Michigan GOP responded to the Governor and AG’s press conference. Michigan GOP Chairman Laura Cox said, “While Secretary DeVos fights to ensure all schools can safely reopen, it’s sad to see that Dana Nessel and Gretchen Whitmer seek to intentionally leave thousands of Michigan children unprotected from a disease that does not care if a child attends a public or private school. Politics has no place in the fight against COVID-19, so Whitmer and Nessel should stop bowing down to the whims of the teacher’s union bosses who fund their campaigns and stop using schoolchildren like pawns in their well-documented war on Secretary DeVos.”

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