Trump issues school selection decree allowing states to reallocate funds to “emergency learning scholarships”; Critics see Biden swiftly revoke pandemic measure


After unsuccessful attempts in Congress to transfer more funds to parents wanting their children to return to in-person learning, President Donald Trump on Monday issued an executive order directing the Department of Health and Human Services to allow use global pandemic grant funds. private school and home expenses.

States would be able to use Community Services Block Grant funds to provide “emergency scholarships” to “disadvantaged” families. The funds could also be used to participate in micro-schools and modules, as well as therapy services for students with special needs.

“The prolonged deprivation of in-person learning opportunities has had undeniably dire consequences for children in this country,” the ordinance said, noting that more than 50% of all public school students in the United States have started distance school this fall.

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The block grant, funded at $ 775 million for fiscal year 2021, is used for a wide range of poverty reduction programs in low-income communities, ranging from employment, nutrition, housing and care health. Education is an authorized use of funds. Trump, however, actually recommended eliminating the block grant in his budget proposal earlier this year, as well as throughout his administration.

The order came on the same day that outgoing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos commented on the $ 2.3 trillion pandemic finance and relief bill that Trump signed on Sunday, saying that the legislation “took the same tired approach” by not including provisions in the School Choice Now bill, which would have set aside 10 percent of federal relief funds for scholarships for private spending and homeschooling. In a tweet, she said, the ordinance “demonstrates our continued commitment to giving students the resources they need to find the right fit for their education.”

The Trump administration hinted in mid-November that the president might make such a move, but observers and public school advocates called it “more grassroots bluster” and executive action that would not stand in court.

They had the same reaction today.

“It’s super weird,” Sasha Pudelski, director of advocacy at AASA, the association of school superintendents, said of the decree. “This obviously will not go into effect.”

She said Biden would be able to cancel the order once he takes office on January 20. Biden’s transition team did not respond to a request for comment.

Derek Black, a law professor at the University of South Carolina who opposed attempts in his own state to use funds from previous relief bills for school vouchers, said: “This decision has a day of late and a dollar less – a day late because students have been waiting for federal leadership on the issue of reopening schools for over six months and a dollar short because this haphazard idea of ​​using health care funds and social services is very unlikely to move the lines for many families. ”

But school choice advocates celebrated the announcement.

“This is important and welcome news,” said Leslie Hiner, vice president of legal affairs at EdChoice, an advocacy organization. “Micro-schools, private schools and home education co-ops are great options. The children need help now; they don’t have time to wait.

The ordinance refers to guidelines that the Department of Health and Human Services released in August authorizing the use of federal funds for child care during hours when students would normally be in school. But he adds that “virtual education is an inadequate substitute for in-person learning opportunities and this help is insufficient to meet current needs.”

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Keri Rodrigues, president of the National Parents Union, said she objected to the order’s “deficit mindset prospect” but said the organization’s poll shows that more parents, especially parents of color “would like to participate in learning modules and other innovative educational programs. approaches if funding and resources were available to them.”

“The key,” she added, “will be to ensure the equitable distribution of this funding to the generally underserved and under-equipped children who need it most.”

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