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Agudath Israel of America commends U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and the U.S. Department of Education for announcing today’s Interim Final Rule, which provides fairness for America’s school children in receiving the federal support they need to overcome the educational obstacles brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
For decades, the mandate of “equitable participation” in federal education programs has been a fixture in our law and policy. It looks to the needs of the child, and is meant to address those needs.
If this is what equity has meant in the past, it is certainly what it means in regard to the same mandate contained in the CARES Act‘s response to the COVID -19 crisis. All children are affected by, and susceptible to, the dangers of the virus. All children are facing formidable challenges at school and at home. All children are deserving of our nation’s assistance, regardless of the type of school they attend.
The equity calculation is simple and straightforward in its intent and effect. If all public school children are receiving CARES services, without regard to poverty, low achievement, or residence, then all private school children should receive those services on the same basis. If participating private school students comprise ten percent of the school-age population in a district, they should receive ten percent of the available funding.
We note that the Interim Final Rule has included further clarification of how states can fulfill the statute’s “equitable participation” provisions. We will carefully review those provisions, consider how they will affect Jewish and other schools in different states, and offer the Department our comments, if appropriate. It is our desire and intent to strongly encourage both federal and state government to craft a framework that will allow each and every public and private school child to be served under the Act.
Agudath Israel is pleased that many states have already implemented the CARES Act according to the original guidance and some took further steps to recognize the important role nonpublic schools play in the education of all citizens. We are hopeful that with the Department’s clear and legally binding direction, all states will take the necessary steps to ensure that all children in both public and private school will reap the benefits of the federal COVID 19 response equitably.
Both public and nonpublic schools have gone above and beyond during these difficult times and, using creative and innovative distance learning methods, stretched themselves to the limit to meet the needs of every student. We thank Secretary DeVos for insisting that the CARES Act live up to its promise of bringing relief to American school children on an equitable basis.