Earlier this year, schools across the country received over $ 100 billion from the federal government – U.S. taxpayers, in fact – to recover from the pandemic and finally get back to teaching children.
The federal government has stipulated that 20% of that money will be spent on tackling learning losses during the pandemic, but most of it can be spent at the discretion of schools. Which means, of course, that many schools are using this sudden injection of money to make improvements that have nothing to do with fighting COVID-19.
“Some districts are investing a lot of money in initiatives that at first glance do not seem strictly related to COVID,” notes Education week. “Miami-Dade schools plan to spend $ 30 million, or $ 86 per student, on cybersecurity. Schools in Raleigh County in West Virginia report a $ 9 million effort, or more than $ 800 per student, to expand an elementary school, add nine classrooms and modernize the library. , extending the kitchen and separating the cafeteria and the gymnasium. The Newport News School District in Virginia is spending $ 840,000 on a new student information system to help teachers catalog students’ academic progress. “
An unnamed school district will use part of its COVID-19 relief funds to install vape detection devices, purchase new student ID cards and build a tennis court.
Indeed, many districts appear to be spending large sums to modernize sports facilities and expand stadiums, according to Education week. Athletics can be an important part of the lives of many students, and letting the kids return to sports was a good reason (among many) to step away from the overwhelming farce of virtual learning and bring everyone back to it. ‘school. But a slightly nicer football pitch is unlikely to improve student test scores or make them more immune to COVID-19, which are after all the two main justifications for all spending.
In October, RaisonBrian Doherty of Brian Doherty noted a terrific report from ProPublica which detailed a Texas school district’s plan “to spend $ 4 million of its education pandemic relief funds to build a learning environment in. 5-acre outdoor area connected to a local city-owned nature and birding center. “The project is not expected to be completed until 2024, by which time it will hopefully no longer be necessary to organize courses outside.
The grand reopening of America’s public education system, which largely took place this fall, has not produced serious outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools. Given this, it might actually make sense for schools to spend the money on things that don’t involve pandemic mitigation. Of course, if they spend money on staff, they could eventually end up with a shortfall once the battery runs out; districts will certainly not want to lower wages or lay off staff once this happens.
In any case, the decision to spend the money rests with national and local authorities. The federal government has asked states to pay attention to where the money goes, but districts have little incentive to report responsibly. In North Carolina, several colleges with fewer students received significantly more money than other colleges that enroll more students. WRAL, a local station, asked dozens of schools to explain how they plan to spend the money. Not a single one answered.