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District joins suit on coronavirus relief rule




CMSD is joining legal action that seeks to block distribution of federal coronavirus relief funding to non-public schools based on total enrollment, not just the number of students living in poverty.

The school board voted unanimously Tuesday to join a federal lawsuit initiated by the states of Michigan, California, Maine, New Mexico and Wisconsin and the District of Columbia. Other plaintiffs include the school boards in New York, Chicago and San Francisco. The District is not required to pay legal expenses.

The CARES Act, which Congress approved in March, set aside $13.5 billion in coronavirus relief for K-12 education.

The legislation called for public school districts to distribute shares to non-public schools using the formula for what is known as Title I, funding for schools with high concentrations of children in poverty. CMSD would receive $26.9 million.

In June, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos issued guidance requiring that the allocation be based on total enrollment, regardless of students' residency or level of need. Under that guidance, CMSD would lose $822,000.

“I believe we have an obligation to advocate for money for our children,” CEO Eric Gordon told the board.

School leaders across the country have said that the CARES Act money falls far short of what is needed. In April, Gordon and 61 other big-city superintendents sent a letter to Congress requesting an additional $200 billion.

CMSD has faced unanticipated expenses due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including costs for feeding families and providing remote learning. Gordon outlined the impact when he testified last month before the U.S. House Education and Labor Committee.