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Parents, Districts, and NAACP Win Major Victory as Federal Court Blocks Illegal DeVos Rule Nationwide

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Late this afternoon, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruled in favor of the plaintiffs in NAACP v. DeVos, striking down a rule that imposes unlawful conditions on federal emergency aid for public schools. Judge Dabney L. Friedrich ruled that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education violated the clear language of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act in issuing a regulation that would illegally divert desperately needed funds away from public school students for the benefit of private schools.

Judge Friedrich wrote: “Congress expressed a clear and unambiguous preference for apportioning funding to private schools based on the number of children from low-income families...”  The court continued: “Contrary to the Department’s interim final rule, that cannot mean the opposite of what it says.”

“This decision sends a clear signal that Secretary DeVos cannot use illegal means to advance her agenda of funneling scarce public resources to private education, to the detriment of our highest need students in public schools across the country,” said Tamerlin Godley, a partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson LLP, who argued the plaintiffs’ motion for partial summary judgment. “We are particularly grateful that the court issued this decision quickly so that public school districts do not lose any more time in meeting the urgent needs of their students during this pandemic.”

The plaintiffs are the NAACP, public school parents and districts across the country. The plaintiff families have children enrolled in public schools in states including Maryland, North Carolina, Georgia, Arizona, Florida, Tennessee, Nevada, Mississippi and Alabama, as well as Washington, D.C. The plaintiffs also include Broward County Public Schools, FL; DeKalb County School District, GA; Denver County School District, CO; Pasadena Unified School District, CA; and Stamford Public Schools, CT.

The plaintiffs are represented by the law firm Munger, Tolles & Olson, LLP, as well as Education Law Center and the Southern Poverty Law Center. These organizations collaborate on Public Funds Public Schools (PFPS), a national campaign to ensure that public funds for education are used to maintain, support, and strengthen public schools.

The rule invalidated today required districts to either divert more funding for “equitable services'' to private school students than the law allows or face onerous restrictions on the use of those funds in their public schools. It would have drastically diminished the desperately needed resources available to support public school children during the COVID-19 pandemic, with a particularly harmful effect on historically underserved student populations, including students of color and low-income students.  

The court’s ruling grants a nationwide vacatur of the rule, bringing much-needed certainty to public schools across the country that they will have the full amount of CARES Act funds to which they are entitled.

More information about NAACP v. DeVos is available here.