In early June, before the new federal rule was announced, the Pennsylvania Catholic Conference asked the U.S. Department of Education to reverse state decisions that gave insufficient coronavirus relief funds to Catholic and other private schools
Before the guidance became a mandatory rule, the Colorado Catholic Conference had circulated an action alert objecting to Colorado officials' decisions. Education officials had disregarded federal guidance in a way that withheld relief funds for Catholic schools, the conference said.
"Without a fair share of relief funding for our Catholic schools, our already financially stretched Catholic schools will be faced with an additional hardship in trying to absorb the expenses needed to ensure schools can reopen safely and continue to provide a quality education to students in the midst of a pandemic," said the action alert.
Brittany Vessely, executive director of the Colorado Catholic Conference, explained the motivation behind continued advocacy for relief aid to Catholic schools.
"We're talking about being treated equitably and fairly based upon a pandemic that has impacted everybody," she told CNA. "We want to make sure that relief funding gets to our schools and to our students."
"All families have been impacted by the coronavirus, we are all in this together," she said. Any state or local education agency that tries to block funding to non-public schools, she said, is being "discriminatory" against families that have chosen these schools as "the best education option for their child."
Relief funds in the large east Denver suburb of Aurora, Colorado are distributed through the Aurora School District, one of the largest districts in the state. But the school district decided to postpone a decision until December.
In Aurora, the postponement meant a loss of "significant funding" Catholic schools were expecting, said Moo, who worried other districts in the state might delay the provision of resources.
"Now we're scrambling to figure out how to pay for certain things that are needed from the first day of school, when students are back," said Moo, adding that the Catholic archdiocesan schools are considering how to fund raise for some of the costs.
Corey Christiansen, public information officer for Aurora Public Schools, told CNA that the Colorado Department of Education has set December as the deadline for the allocation of these funds.
"Guidance on COVID-19 related federal funds has been limited in general and has changed several times since the original allocations were made," he said. "We intend to apply and hope that additional clarification from Congress, the U.S. Department of Education or (Colorado Department of Education) helps clarify guidance prior to the December deadline."
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Jeremy Meyer, director of communications for the Colorado Department of Education, told CNA that in the department's view, the CARES Act requires that local education agencies "must provide equitable services to students and teachers in non-public schools, not direct funding." Control of the federal funds must remain with the local agency. Calculations for these services have been "in flux" due to differences between the act's language and the federal guidance.
"The reality of education is that it's an ecosystem," Izard told CNA, who added both public and private schools serve the same neighborhoods and the same people.
"What happens to one sector is going to impact the other sector," he added. "If private schools don't get what they need in the form of emergency aid, and they're not able to effectively serve their students, those students have to go somewhere."
"That can result in really significant costs on taxpayers and on the public system."
Moo echoed Izard's description of schools as an ecosystem.
"We really see ourselves as collaborators with public forms of education in the overall educational efforts in our state," Moo told CNA. "In this educational educational ecosystem, here in Colorado in particular, we would say there is a symbiotic relationship between public and non-public education."