Oakland – An effort by the U.S. Department of Education to take public education dollars away from Oakland Unified School District and countless other Districts and give it to private schools in Oakland and elsewhere has failed, and leadership from OUSD had a role in defeating it.
U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, had created a rule that directed districts to give private schools a larger share of federal coronavirus aid – money that would otherwise have gone to public schools such as here in OUSD. If the rule had gone forward, OUSD would have been forced to distribute $1.8 million to local private schools through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act Private School Program. That would have been more than 10% of the $14 million in federal funding sent to OUSD. All told, it was DeVos’ plan to send $2 billion in federal education dollars to private schools.
According to the Washington Post, “Lawmakers from both parties said that most of the Cares Act’s K-12 education funding was intended to be distributed to public and private elementary and secondary schools using a long-employed formula based on how many poor children they serve. But DeVos said she wanted money sent to private schools based on the total number of students in the school, not how many students from low-income families attended. That would have sent hundreds of millions of dollars more to private schools than Congress had intended.”
California and other states sued the federal government to reverse the rule, and OUSD was a party to the lawsuit. Johanna Hoffmann, the District’s Middle School and Private School specialist in Strategic Resource Planning, submitted a declaration in support of the lawsuit. Included in the declaration was this powerful argument that OUSD deserved as much money as possible to support its students. “The transition to distance learning has been particularly challenging for OUSD’s lower income students and, because of the high percentage of low-income students within our district, OUSD is significantly impacted by these challenges. Low-income students lack technology access, which prevents them from accessing remote learning materials. OUSD serves a large number of students that lack access to devices and high-speed internet at home, leaving the students unable to learn remotely. From what we have seen, private school students are more likely to live in homes with good internet access and computers.”
After receiving a collection of information, a federal judge ruled that the move by DeVos violated the law, relying in part on the information included in Hoffman’s declaration. DeVos then dropped the rule. That means OUSD gets to keep most of the $1.8 million for District students, plus the rest of the $14 million.
“What a relief it is that the federal judge saw the DeVos rule for what it was, a way to take money from public school students who need it, and give it to schools that serve primarily students of great privilege,” said Superintendent Kyla Johnson-Trammell. “When it comes to food insecurity, the need for technology in the home, and many other metrics, our students deserve all the support they can get from the federal government. I thank the State of California for leading the legal fight and I applaud Johanna Hoffmann in Strategic Resource Planning for the outstanding work she put in to help convince the court to rule on the side of our nation’s public school students.”
About the Oakland Unified School District
In California’s most diverse city, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is dedicated to creating a learning environment where “Every Student Thrives!” More than half of our students speak a non-English language at home. And each of our 81 schools is staffed with talented individuals uniting around a common set of values: Students First, Equity, Excellence, Integrity, Cultural Responsiveness and Joy. We are committed to preparing all students for college, career and community success.
To learn more about OUSD’s Full Service Community District focused on academic achievement while serving the whole child in safe schools, please visit OUSD.org and follow us @OUSDnews.
This post based on a press release from the Oakland OUSD to Zennie62Media.