WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are demanding answers about reports that California school officials are considering using COVID relief funding for taxpayer funded vacations to Hawaii and teacher bonuses.
“We need a full accounting of how taxpayer funds are being utilized to reopen schools,” said Senator Blackburn. “These funds should be used for one purpose – getting children back in class. Instead, the teacher’s unions are forcing schools to remain closed, while officials are doling out bonuses and reportedly planning taxpayer funded vacations to Hawaii. I’m sure these parents whose children have been learning from home for the past year would enjoy a free trip to Hawaii.”
You can read the Senators full letter to Education Secretary Cardona here.
We write regarding the distribution of federal relief funding through the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund.
As you know, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (P.L. 116-136) created an Education Stabilization Fund and included $13.2 billion for the ESSER Fund. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act of 2021 (P.L. 116-260) provided $54.3 billion to the ESSER Fund. Most recently, the American Rescue Plan (ARP) Act of 2021 (P.L. 117-2), provides an additional $122.7 billion for the ESSER Fund.
On March 15, 2021, it was widely reported that several school districts were considering using ESSER funding to pay teachers and administrators bonuses despite the limited in-person instruction provided by those schools. Countless medical experts have argued for schools to reopen by detailing the serious detrimental mental effect school closures have had on school aged children. We also know that overwhelming evidence points to the fact that schools are not a major source of COVID-19 spread for children or adults. We appreciate the incredible challenge our nation’s teachers have undertaken to continue delivering lessons throughout the pandemic. It is our expectation that the Department of Education would encourage local educational agencies to promote the use of ESSER funding in a way that most benefits student educational achievement, and we know that this means fully returning to in-person instruction.
Accordingly, we request a status update on the ESSER funding and what steps the Department of Education is taking to ensure that those dollars go towards supporting students. Please share your collected data and breakdown of how these funds have been put to use throughout the country.