Move Would Shift Millions of Dollars from Public Schools to Private Schools

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wants to take millions of dollars away from our neediest public school children and give them to our state’s wealthiest private school students. 

The federal CARES Act sent Mississippi $170-million specifically for K-12 education. These funds are allocated to public schools according to the Title I formula, so public school districts get funding ONLY for their schools with high concentrations of low-income students. Longstanding federal law requires public schools to use a portion of Title I funding to provide “equitable services,” such as tutoring and transportation, to low-income students in their districts who attend private schools. In Mississippi, as in most states, that is a minuscule number. 

But Secretary DeVos, who has long pushed a privatization agenda, has instructed school districts to use CARES Act funds to support ALL private school students in their districts, regardless of income. Money meant for the most disadvantaged children in public schools would be diverted to serve privileged private school students. 

According to DeVos, CARES Act funding for PUBLIC schools should serve ONLY students in high-poverty Title I schools, but those same funds should serve ALL PRIVATE school students. If this guidance stands, public schools, at a time of tremendous need, will lose millions of dollars to the private school agenda of our nation’s education secretary.

The Council of Chief State School Officers is urging Devos to revise her CARES Act guidance to districts. DeVos also needs pressure from Congress. That’s where we come in.

Please ask Mississippi’s U.S. congressional delegation to:

Insist that Secretary DeVos advise school districts to distribute CARES Act funds based on the Title I formula for equitable services, giving the greatest support to the children who need it most.

Sen. Roger Wicker  601.965.4644 or 202.224.6253

Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith  601.965.4459 or 202.224.5054

Congressman Trent Kelly  662.841.8808 or 202.225.4306

Congressman Bennie Thompson  601.866.9003 or 202.225.5876

Congressman Michael Guest  769.241.6120 or 202.225.5031

Congressman Steven Palazzo  228.864.7670 or 202.225.5772

When you speak with these elected officials, it is helpful to bear in mind that we elected them to represent us. Make sure staffers who answer congressional phone lines commit to sharing your concerns with your member of Congress and that they don’t simply report to you what their positions are.

During this pandemic, public schools have moved heaven and earth to mitigate the harm wrought by COVID-19 on our state’s most vulnerable children, and they have incurred costs that private schools have not: creating innovative feeding programs for students, outfitting school buses with wifi to serve as neighborhood hot spots, and providing supports that benefit all families in their communities. It is particularly offensive that Secretary DeVos would attempt to take funding Congress intended to help shoulder those responsibilities and use it to benefit the most privileged among us. Sort of reminds one of the Nancy New/DHS scandal, doesn’t it? 

Thank you for always standing in the gap for our children – particularly our most vulnerable children. What a blessing! Together, we’ve got this!