How are Local School Districts Spending Federal COVID Dollars?
Today, after months of research and open records requests, the Beacon Center released a new report showing how local school districts in Tennessee are budgeting and spending federal COVID dollars through the ESSER program. Congress allocated over $4 billion in federal taxpayer money to Tennessee school districts to address the pandemic. The data suggests that Tennessee public schools have budgeted or spent millions of dollars on areas that had little to nothing to do with COVID or student performance. School districts across the state budgeted tens of millions of dollars for “indirect costs” without any further explanation and also funded pet projects such as walk-in coolers and retractable bleachers.
In the past few years, Tennessee families have had to deal with school closures across the state resulting in forced virtual learning. The ESSER funds provided by the federal government were supposed to help children with learning loss and mental health, but instead, local school districts budgeted and spent money on non-education and non-COVID-related areas. With relief dollars budgeted as they are, parents should be questioning why districts are choosing to budget for retractable bleachers and new awnings while their students are struggling to read on grade level.
Districts should use their remaining portions of historic relief funding to focus on the most pressing needs of students, getting children on track to excel in academics and addressing mental health issues stemming from school closures and the pandemic.
Click the links below to view funding in specific areas in Tennessee.