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Wenstrup Presses Department of Education for Answers on Misuse of COVID-19 Education Funds

WASHINGTON — Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) is examining potential waste and abuse of pandemic-era education funds designed to address historic learning loss, reopen schools safely, and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Chairman Wenstrup is requesting data from the Department of Education detailing the use of Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds by state and local education agencies to evaluate any academic benefit stemming from the program and investigate the reported misuse of tax-payer dollars on unrelated, non-academic programming or politically motivated pet projects. America’s children continue to experience historic learning loss, higher rates of psychological distress, and decreased physical well-being as a result of COVID-19 related school closures and federal policies. The Select Subcommittee is concerned that instead of utilizing ESSER funds to alleviate the harm caused to children, education agencies used the funds to forward a leftist agenda.

“[M]any critics—including concerned parents—have questioned the efficacy of the program and how much of these funds went toward helping students succeed in the classroom. This is especially concerning in light of mounting evidence that America’s students are continuing to fail academically and struggling to recover pandemic-related learning deficits. Troublingly, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) recently reported that 13-year-olds’ performance in math and reading had declined to their lowest recorded levels since 1990 and 2004, respectfully. For example, none of the eighth-grade students enrolled at Lebron James’ I Promise School in Akron, Ohio have passed the state’s standardized math test in three years. This is unconscionable and unacceptable,” said Chairman Wenstrup.

Previous COVID-19 education related hearings conducted by the Select Subcommittee revealed conclusive evidence that the “science” never justified prolonged school closures and political leaders, including teachers union head Randi Weingarten, exerted uncommon influence over supposedly scientific school reopening guidance. Investigating whether political activism played a role in the misuse of COVID-19 education funds is essential to address the academic well-being of children should another pandemic arise. The Select Subcommittee’s request for ESSER data will shed light on any fraudulent use of these funds and bring accountability to American families and students who deserve answers.

“Unfortunately, the fund’s seemingly few restrictions, coupled with the Department’s limited accounting, has meant that Congress has largely been without the information necessary for it to assess the program’s benefit for students academically (if any) and ensure that funds were neither wasted nor abused. Still, there’s been numerous credible reports of funds being expended for questionable programs and projects—not related to academic success in the classroom—including for upgrades to sports facilities and to indoctrinate children in core tenets of leftist ideology,” continued Chairman Wenstrup.

Read Chairman Wenstrup’s letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona here.