As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, Congress allocated $30 billion to assist educational institutions in handling the economic fallout from COVID-19. About half of that funding was designated for higher education and $13.5 billion for K–12 schools, with the remainder left to state governments.
The bill gave the Department of Education discretion to craft guidelines for disbursing the money, and earlier this month, Secretary Betsy DeVos came under fire after she directed school districts to increase the amount of the money spent on students who attend private schools. Most of the funds will be allocated on the basis of need, with more going to areas that have higher numbers of low-income students.
But the new guidance requires districts to allocate part of their shares to private-school students, on the basis of what percentage of all students in their jurisdictions attend private schools, rather than what percentage of low-income students do. Angering opponents of school choice, DeVos has also used about $180 million of the CARES Act funding to incentivize states to create microgrants, which would allow parents of grade-school or high-school children to pay for a variety of educational options, including private schools.