Lieff Cabraser Civil Justice Blog
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Lieff Cabraser Files Amicus Brief to Help Economically Disadvantaged Public School Students Receive CARES Act Funding

On August 28, 2020, Lieff Cabraser filed an amicus brief on behalf of public school students from California, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia challenging an unlawful restriction imposed by US Department of Education and Secretary Betsy DeVos on over $16 billion in funds that Congress allocated to schools under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES”) Act.

Critics of the discriminatory restriction argue that it diverts CARES Act funding from economically disadvantaged students who most need funding and support. The four districts named in the brief together support the schooling of nearly 350,000 students, all of whom are reeling from the challenges and increasing costs of ensuring that their diverse student bodies get the robust education they deserve while remaining safe, healthy, and COVID-prevention compliant. The support brief filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. on their collective behalf also serves to amplify the urgency of the requested relief sought by plaintiffs in the underlying case, NAACP v. DeVos, which has been brought on behalf of the NAACP, a number of school districts, and individual parents, among others.

The opportunity to support this critical fight for justice in education was initiated at Lieff Cabraser by staff attorney Christopher Jordan in San Francisco, who was invited into this case by colleagues at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Chris championed every aspect of this project and also led the effort to sign up the amici clients. The brief was drafted and shepherded through to filing by New York associate Kartik Madiraju, while San Francisco associate Michael Levin-Gesundheit assisted in strategic direction, building on knowledge gained from an earlier amicus brief filed in June on behalf of the Community College CARES Act. Final review was provided by San Francisco partner Eric Fastiff.

The brief describes the underlying urgency with passion and clarity:

“Nearly eight months into the COVID-19 pandemic, every aspect of American life has been disturbed or uprooted.  More than 5.8 million people in the United States have contracted COVID-19, including over 180,000 people who have died as a result.  Over 124,000 public schools serving grades K-12, like those in Amici districts here, have physically closed temporarily.  More than 55 million children, most too young to comprehend this tragedy, have been impacted.  Classrooms that have historically invited kids to dream and question and strive have been forced to pioneer new methods of socially distant or even online learning, re-packaging an educational experience never before implemented on the scale or with the socioeconomic diversity of students in American public schools.  Amici are gravely concerned about what will happen to the students, teachers, and staff across their districts and the country without increased funding and support.”

Kudos to the Lieff Cabraser CARES Public Schools Team!