Bishops Join Legal Action to Prevent States from Taking CARES Act Funding from Non-Public School Students

Church and State

The California Catholic Conference of Bishops has joined an amicus brief in a case aimed at ensuring that funding earmarked for non-public schools in the CARES Act be used by the states to help all students impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  California and other states have sought to withhold most funding from non-public schools.

The CARES Act allocated $16 billion to support both public and private elementary schools impacted by the pandemic and directed the U.S. Department of Education to develop rules to that effect.  Despite the fact that Congress specifically stated that the funding was to be shared among public and non-public schools, a group of states and school districts is asking the Court to ignore the rules developed by the Department to implement Congress’ directive.

“The pandemic respects no jurisdictional boundaries,” said Andrew Rivas, executive director of the California Catholic Conference.  “All students, no matter what type of school they are in, are impacted by the pandemic.  Congress recognized this and passed the CARES Act with the explicit understanding that parents, teachers, administrators and staff all need and deserve assistance in this very challenging situation.”

According to the legal brief supported by the California Catholic Conference and 37 other organizations: “Congress historically has, and continues to, recognize the importance of private schools as a vital part of the education sector. The pandemic significantly impacted all K-12 schools and the CARES Act was intended to help schools, both public and private, continue to serve students. The Department’s rule is a continuation of that intent and commitment to ensuring that all families can access the school of their choice, and is a correct and appropriate implementation of the underlying requirements of the CARES Act.”

“Our primary concern should be with our students whose education is being disrupted in ways none of us could have imagined,” said Rivas.  “Many of our schools in California serve the poor and disadvantaged.  Those families – many of whom are headed by essential workers being disproportionately impacted by this pandemic - need help.

The amicus brief was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California by the Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty. The case is Michigan vs. DeVos. Among the 38 signatories of the brief are the American Federation for Children, the Council for American Private Education, various state Catholic conferences, National Catholic Educational Association, Agudath Israel of America, Council of Islamic Schools of North America, and the Association of Christian Schools International.

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