Another critic of the move was Daniel A. Domenech, executive director of the School Superintendents Association. He said the previous standard based on Title I eligibility of private school students "aligns with both the clear intent of Congress in the CARES Act as well as the applicable underlying statute in the Every Student Succeeds Act." Domenech said the rule would limit public schools to allocating CARES Act funding based on Title I eligibility while "allowing all private schools to generate their share of funding by counting all of their students."
Domenech charged that the rule was "an opportunistic money grab, using the pandemic environment to advance the privatization agenda." He said it would use funds intended for Title I-eligible public school students to "subsidize wealthier students in private schools."
Education Undersecretary James Blew, speaking on the June 25 phone call, rejected depictions of private schools as primarily for the wealthy.
"If you think that private schools typically are like Sidwell Friends or Georgetown Day, I want to help you understand that about 90% of the private schools in America are small schools that are serving low- and middle-class working families," he said, according to the Washington Times.
The Department of Education on June 25 said that if private schools close, local public schools could be forced to enroll thousands of transfer students "at a time when public schools are already under their own financial strain."
"Most private schools serving low- and middle-income communities are under great financial strain due to COVID-19 because they are typically dependent on tuition from families and donations from their communities. Because the economic disruptions are shrinking these revenue sources, more than 100 private schools have already announced they will not be able to reopen following the pandemic, and hundreds more are facing a similar fate," the Department of Education said.
The June 25 rule has taken effect, but it could be revised after public comment.
Some 5.7 million children, about 10% of school-age students, attend private schools, the Council for American Private Education, has said. About 8% of private school students are living in poor households, compared to about 19% of public school students.
Education officials in several states had ruled that private schools would receive fewer funds than many schools deemed sufficient.
In early June the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference asked the U.S. Department of Education to reverse state authorities' decisions that the conference said gave insufficient coronavirus relief funds to Catholic and other private schools. Some $523.8 million in K-12 federal aid went to Pennsylvania through the CARES Act.
Only $19 million went to Pennsylvania's private schools, while the state Catholic conference said $66 million was the more equitable figure.
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