Your Education Road Map

Politics K-12®

ESSA. Congress. State chiefs. School spending. Elections. Education Week reporters keep watch on education policy and politics in the nation’s capital and in the states. Read more from this blog.


Illinois Directs Districts to Set Aside Federal COVID Aid for All Private School Students

By Andrew Ujifusa — May 29, 2020 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Illinois is telling school districts they must set aside federal coronavirus relief money to account for all their local private school students, and to put a certain amount in escrow, due to an upcoming rule from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

The decision by Illinois indicates that DeVos’ push to direct roughly $13 billion in coronavirus aid to private school students in general, through a provision of the relief law known as equitable services, is having an affect.

In CARES Act guidance released last month, DeVos said that equitable services, which are typically reserved for disadvantaged and at-risk students at private schools to provide things like tutoring and technology licenses, must be provided to to all private school students within district boundaries.

DeVos says her interpretation of how the $13 billion fund for districts must work matches the intent of the CARES Act to provide help for all students, irrespective of where they go to school, during the coronavirus pandemic. But state and local leaders, as well as Democrats in Congress, have argued this interpretation does not match the law and improperly takes money away from public schools struggling to deal with the fallout from COVD-19. (“CARES” stands for Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security.)

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., the chairman of the Senate education committee, said he differs from DeVos on her interpretation of the CARES Act, but has not indicated he’ll push for Congress to nullify her guidance.

Earlier this week, DeVos announced that to “resolve” the issue, she would release a proposed rule on the subject and make it available for public comment. Turning the guidance into a rule would effectively force districts to comply, although the rule could be subject to a legal challenge.

In the 2017-18 school year, Illinois had roughly 1,350 private schools enrolling 216,000 students, according to federal data. Only five states had higher total enrollment in private schools.

Jaclyn Matthews, a spokesperson for the Illinois state school board, said in an email Friday that the board has “directed public school districts to set aside the amount based on total enrollment in nonpublic schools within the district boundaries,” pending further word from the Education Department. That dollar amount must first be determined by local school districts in consultation with private schools about what equitable services for all local private school students would cost.

“Evidence of that consultation and the set aside amount will be included within each district’s grant application,” Matthews wrote, a reference to the fact that districts must apply for CARES money from the state, which is the initial recipient of the aid from the Education Department.

Matthews added that “services will be provided initially based upon the lesser amount of low-income enrollment in nonpublic schools.” That’s a reference to the amount that would be reserved for the lower number of students who typically qualify for equitable services under Title I of the Every Student Succeeds Act. The difference betwen that lesser dollar amount and the total dollar amount must be held in escrow.

Depending on what the Education Department does, she noted, the funds put in escrow could ultimately flow to all local private school students, or be incorporated back into public school budgets “through an amendment.”

In a letter to state schools chiefs earlier this week, DeVos recommended that districts put money in escrow to account for the upcoming rule about CARES and equitable services.

After DeVos released the CARES Act guidance—which is nonbinding—at least two states, Indiana and Maine, said they would not follow it, but Alexander’s home state of Tennessee said that it would.

Photo: U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos on Capitol Hill earlier this year. -- Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images

Follow us on Twitter @PoliticsK12. And follow the Politics K-12 reporters @EvieBlad @Daarel and @AndrewUjifusa.

Commenting has been disabled on effective Sept. 8. Please visit our FAQ section for more details. To get in touch with us visit our contact page, follow us on social media, or submit a Letter to the Editor.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Teaching Webinar
6 Key Trends in Teaching and Learning
As we enter the third school year affected by the pandemic—and a return to the classroom for many—we come better prepared, but questions remain. How will the last year impact teaching and learning this school
Content provided by Instructure
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
School & District Management Webinar
Ensuring Continuity of Learning: How to Prepare for the Next Disruption
Across the country, K-12 schools and districts are, again, considering how to ensure effective continuity of learning in the face of emerging COVID variants, politicized debates, and more. Learn from Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent
Content provided by Class
Teaching Profession Live Online Discussion What Have We Learned From Teachers During the Pandemic?
University of California, Santa Cruz, researcher Lora Bartlett and her colleagues spent months studying how the pandemic affected classroom teachers. We will discuss the takeaways from her research not only for teachers, but also for

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Federal White House Launches Hispanic Education Initiative Led by Miguel Cardona
President Joe Biden said his administration intends to address the "systemic causes" of educational disparities faced by Hispanic students.
2 min read
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona writes down and draws positive affirmations on poster board with students during his visit to P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school, Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2021 in New York.
U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona visits students in New York City at P.S. 5 Port Morris, a Bronx elementary school in the Bronx last month.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Federal Feds Add Florida to List of States Under Investigation Over Restrictions on Mask Mandates
The Education Department told the state Sept. 10 it will probe whether its mask rule is violating the rights of students with disabilities.
3 min read
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Surrounded by lawmakers, Florida Gov.Ron DeSantis speaks at the end of a legislative session on April 30, 2021, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Federal How Biden Will Mandate Teacher Vaccines, Testing in Some States That Don't Require Them
President Joe Biden's COVID-19 plan will create new teacher vaccination and testing requirements in some states through worker safety rules.
4 min read
Nurse Sara Muela, left, administers the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site setup for teachers and school staff at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa., on March 15, 2021.
Nurse Sara Muela administers a COVID-19 vaccine to educator Rebecca Titus at a vaccination site for at the Berks County Intermediate Unit in Reading, Pa.
Matt Rourke/AP
Federal Biden Pushes Schools to Expand COVID-19 Testing, Get More Teachers Vaccinated
President Joe Biden set teacher vaccine requirements for federally operated schools as part of a new effort to drive down COVID's spread.
7 min read
President Joe Biden speaks in the State Dining Room at the White House, Thursday, Sept. 9, 2021, in Washington. Biden is announcing sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans in an all-out effort to increase COVID-19 vaccinations and curb the surging delta variant.
President Joe Biden in a speech from the White House announces sweeping new federal vaccine requirements and other efforts in an renewed effort to stem the COVID-19 pandemic.
Andrew Harnik/AP