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Education Department Puts Controversial Coronavirus Aid Rule on Ice

Public schools will no longer be expected to follow a rule that may have required them to share a larger portion of their federal COVID-19 relief funds with private school students.

That change in course comes after the U.S. Department of Education updated its guidance this week, saying the interim final rule on "equitable services" is no longer in effect.

The update follows a federal judge's Sept. 4 decision to strike down the rule nationwide after she determined it violated Congress's intent in drafting the CARES Act, a massive federal aid package. Two other courts had temporarily paused the rule, but the recent court decision and the Education Department's response are more permanent.

Advocates for public schools said the rule, backed by U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, would have siphoned needed funds away from public schools at a time when an economic crisis threatens their staffing and programs.

DeVos had argued that all students were affected by the pandemic, and that some relief dollars should follow private school students.

The rule, which the department officially released on July 1, directed schools to set aside CARES Act money for what's known as "equitable services" for all local private school students, if they want to use the remaining money for all their local public schools. That departed from how federal law typically handles those services, which are normally provided to disadvantaged and at-risk students in private schools. 

Read more background on equitable services here

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