October 2020 | Number 458
CARES Act Equitable Services Rule Vacated
After a series of setbacks in court, the US Department of Education released a letter on September 25 to state education officials acknowledging that its equitable services rule released over the summer is no longer in effect. In the letter, the Department also announced that it will not seek to appeal the court rulings.

The letter points out that even without the rule, the law still requires equitable services for private schools, and makes it clear that the Department will use its "enforcement authority aggressively to ensure districts comply with this and other relevant equitable services requirements." Nonetheless, many questions remain as to what this all will mean for private schools that have already reached agreements with their local educational agencies (LEAs) on use of CARES Act funds.
House Passes Another COVID Relief Bill Excluding Private Schools
Ever since the CARES Act was signed into law in March, there has been debate in Washington over a new round of COVID relief. In May, the House of Representatives passed COVID assistance legislation that completely excluded private schools from its relief provisions. The Senate declined to vote on that bill and instead put forward its own proposal over the summer, which includes assistance for private schools. On October 1, the House passed a revised version of its bill, which again excludes private schools.

The chairman of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Catholic Education, Bishop Michael Barber of Oakland, said in a statement, “The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all Americans, including those whose children are enrolled in Catholic and non-public schools. It is unconscionable that this latest aid proposal would exclude these American children and the schools they attend from emergency aid that would ease the financial burdens they have borne as a result of the pandemic."

Negotiations between Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi continue, however with each passing day it is looking less and less likely that a deal on COVID relief can be reached before Election Day.
Justice Department Intervenes in New Mexico Private Schools Case
According to a DOJ release, the Department of Justice has "filed a statement of interest in a New Mexico federal court asserting that the State's COVID-19 rules limiting private schools to operating at 25% of capacity but allowing public schools to operate at 50% of capacity violate the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution."

“Parents have a fundamental right under the United States Constitution, without interference from the government, to select the school for their children of their choice, whether a public school, a parochial school, or a non-religious private school,” said Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband for the Civil Rights Division. “New Mexico’s response to COVID-19 has infringed that right by adopting one rule for public schools and another for private schools, resulting in private schools remaining closed for in-person instruction, without justification. There is no pandemic exception to the Constitution and New Mexico’s differential standards for private and public schools cannot stand.”

"I respect Governor Lujan Grisham’s good faith efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic and protect the health of New Mexicans,” said John Anderson, U.S. Attorney for the District of New Mexico. “But COVID-related restrictions must be applied and implemented equally and impartially, and that simply did not happen here. There is no good reason to penalize students just because they choose to attend a private school.”
Private Schools Feeling Effects of COVID Economy
A new study by the Cato Institute shows that roughly 50% of surveyed schools have seen decreased enrollment this fall. Meanwhile reports of school closures resulting from the pandemic continue to garner attention.

Other challenges have also manifested themselves: in Massachusetts, Catholic schools were left without school bus transportation after the public schools switched to remote learning.

That said, private schools continue to adapt this fall as they did in the spring in order to meet the needs of parents and students.
How Governors Are Spending Their CARES Act Funds
FutureEd, a think tank at Georgetown University's McCourt School of Public Policy, has put together a report on how governors have spent their "GEER" money. GEER, or Governor's Emergency Education Relief Fund, is a $3 billion pot of education relief in the CARES Act that governors have direct discretion over. According to the report, "Despite the national push to reopen schools, far more governors are using their discretionary resources to enhance remote learning in K-12 schools and the higher education sector."
Classic Learning Test 2020 National Rankings Released
CLT has released a list of the top 25 schools that have taken the Classical Learning Test, ranked by median score.

According to CLT, "Featuring passages selected from great works across a variety of disciplines, the CLT suite of assessments provide a highly accurate and rigorous measure of reasoning, aptitude, and academic formation for students from diverse educational backgrounds. The exams are taken online in just two to three hours, and all three assessments (traditional CLT, CLT10, CLT8) give test results within 24 hours."
Trump Administration Hopes Rapid Tests Will Facilitate School Reopening
The Trump Administration plans to ship 100 million rapid coronavirus tests to governors in the coming weeks. According to the AP, "The tests will go out to states based on their population and can be used as governors see fit, but the Trump administration is encouraging states to place a priority on schools."
Poll: Increased Support for School Choice
According to a RealClear Opinion Research survey released on September 23, "for parents with kids in public schools, there’s been a ten point jump in support for the concept of school choice, from 67% to 77%" since April. See here for more information.
National Blue Ribbon Schools Announced
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has announced the names of the schools identified by the US Department of Education as the National Blue Ribbon Schools for 2020.

Fifty private schools were among the awardees this year. Each state's commissioner of education nominates public schools for the award, and CAPE nominates private schools. All winning schools will be honored at a virtual awards ceremony November 12-13, 2020. For more information, visit the CAPE website.















South Carolina



Is There Ever Good News These Days?
The court rulings on CARES Act equitable services, referenced above, are sure to add a new layer of confusion to an already chaotic situation. The US Department of Education's spring guidance and summer rule, described at length in past editions of CAPE Outlook, are kaput. Private schools and LEAs across the country, all in varying stages of distributing funds for equitable services, will have to navigate the process without answers to many questions. As the letter from Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to state education officials put it:

We hope, through meaningful consultation and honest assessment, education leaders will do right by all students they serve. You know as well as I do that many private schools serve disadvantaged, lower income families, and it is bad for these communities when those private schools close. Not only does it place a burden on families that chose a different school for their child, but it also places a burden on public schools as well. To that end, I strongly encourage you to use the CARES Act dollars we provided to assist public schools and to provide equitable services to private schools as soon as possible.

Private Education: Good for Students, Good for Families, Good for America
CAPE member organizations:

Agudath Israel of America

Association of Christian Schools

Association of Christian
Teachers and Schools

Association of Waldorf
Schools of N.A.

Christian Schools International

Council of Islamic Schools
in North America

Council on Educational Standards
and Accountability
Evangelical Lutheran Church
in America

Friends Council on Education

Islamic Schools League of America

Jesuit Schools Network

Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod

National Association of
Episcopal Schools

National Association of
Independent Schools

National Catholic
Educational Association
National Christian School

Office for Lasallian Education
Christian Brothers Conference

Oral Roberts University
Educational Fellowship

Seventh-day Adventist
Board of Education

United States Conference of
Catholic Bishops

Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran
Synod Schools
Affiliated State Organizations a coalition of national associations serving private schools K-12

Executive Director:
Michael Schuttloffel

Outlook is published monthly (September to June) by CAPE.
ISSN 0271-145

1300 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20004
Tel: 844-883-CAPE

Michael Schuttloffel
Executive Director
Phone: 844-883-CAPE