(The Center Square) – Thirty-seven of West Virginia’s 54 county school districts were noncompliant spending more than $1.2 billion in federal COVID-19 funds, according to a new report.
A review from the West Virginia Office of the Legislative Auditor found that just three people working for the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Federal Programs reviewed the spending. The auditor report showed that “there are more violations the system is not detecting than it is finding.”
The counties were found to have used improper purchasing procedures, used funds for unallowable activities and some counties were exceeding indirect cost rates.
Most of the school districts were also using federal grant funds for purchases with unregistered vendors.
The Office of Federal Programs did recover some funds from its rotating monitoring of the three sets of federal COVID-19 funds. It recovered $134,554.08 from 19 districts of ESSER I funds and $323,302 of ESSER II and ARP ESSER funds from 13 districts.
The review also should have flagged a $500,000 contract for virtual educational services in Logan County that didn’t follow competitive bidding procedures or establish a written contract, the auditor’s Performance Evaluation and Research Division found.
The auditor review found at least seven more violations and more than $285,000 in spending that was noncompliant.
The West Virginia Department of Education should increase its monitoring of federal grant spending and should use the administrative portion of ESSER funds to hire more monitors, the auditor recommended.
West Virginia school districts have spent nearly all of $86.6 million in ESSER I funds, 86% of its $339 million in ESSER II funds ($45 million unspent) and more than $467 million of the state’s $762 million in awarded ARP ESSER funds are unspent with a Sept. 30, 2024 deadline.