(The Center Square) – Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul is joining the fledgling effort to stop private schools, many of them religious, from getting any of the country’s coronavirus aid. 

Kaul on Tuesday joined a lawsuit being led by California, Michigan, Maine, New Mexico, and the District of Columbia to block the U.S. Department of Education from sending any of the $13.2 billion in aid money to non-public schools. 

“The funds allocated to schools in the CARES Act provide vital support at a time when schools have had to make significant changes to the way they teach students,” Kaul said. 

Kaul upped the ante in his statement, declaring “an estimated $4,184,515.64 in Wisconsin alone could be diverted away from taxpayer-funded public schools in our poorest school districts to private institutions.”

That $4.1 million is Wisconsin’s entire share of CARES education money. 

DeVos first suggested sharing the coronavirus stimulus money with private schools back in April. That caused a backlash. 

Late last month, DeVos’s office modified her proposal. 

“The CARES Act is a special appropriation to combat the effects of the novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). The pandemic has harmed all our Nation’s students by disrupting their education,” the Department of Education wrote in the latest rules. “Nothing in the CARES Act suggests Congress intended to differentiate between students based upon the public or non-public nature of their school with respect to eligibility for relief.”

To make that a reality, the Department of Education is incentivizing public school districts to set aside some CARES money for local, private schools. 

“We are affording flexibility to a [local school district] that helps poor children by spending its CARES Act funds only in its Title I schools to use the proportional share it calculated for the 2019-2020 school year or to use the number of children, ages 5 through 17, who attend a non-public school in the [district] that will participate under a CARES Act program and who are from low-income families compared to the total number of children, ages 5 through 17, who are from low-income families in both Title I schools and participating non-public schools in the [district],” the rules state.

“However, if a [district] spends any funds from a CARES Act program on students and teachers in non-Title I public schools, then the law requires equity for students and teachers in participating non-public schools, achieved by using enrollment to determine the proportional share.”

That essentially limits school districts to spending CARES money only on certain schools, and stops them from back-filling cuts or revenue losses at the state level. Since those cuts and losses are considered almost inevitable, school districts that want to used CARES money to make their budgets whole would have to set aside money for local private schools. 

There is no specific price tag for how much CARES money could be available for private schools, but the DOE estimates it could be as high as 8 percent, or $330,000 in Wisconsin. That would come to just over a billion dollars nationally. 

Benjamin Yount reports on Illinois and Wisconsin statewide issues for The Center Square. Reposted with permission.