(Daily Caller) – More than $736 million of federal COVID-19 funds did not reach the K-12 schools and students it was meant for, with some states putting the money towards “slush funds” and “pet projects,” according to a March report by the National Opportunity Project.
In 2020, Congress gave $5.5 billion in COVID-19 aid to nonpublic schools with low-income students through its Emergency Assistance to Nonpublic Schools (EANS) program, according to a report by the National Opportunity Project. Of the aid, $736 million did not go to the schools with at least $157 million within 27 states going towards programs to teach video game coding and “I Got Vaxxed” competitions.
“Political horse-trading and competing interests led to an imperfect program with a statutory spoiler that allowed governors to manage federal dollars and use any funds not allocated under the narrow parameters of the program for their own purposes,” Patrick Hughes, founder and president of National Opportunity Project, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “That’s how we end up with governors spending money meant for K-12 students on pet projects that fit their ideological goals. Governors should not be using federal aid on these projects before our youngest and most vulnerable students are caught up.”
In Alaska, $1.2 million of EANS funds went towards a program that uses the video game Minecraft to teach coding, the report stated. West Virginia spent $500,000 to award 12 public schools with awards in a statewide “I Got Vaxxed!” competition.
Approximately $1.6 million was spent in Oregon on the multi-year initiative called “Moonshot for Equity,” which focuses on “eliminating equity barriers” within higher education initiatives, according to the report. In Kansas, $6 million was given to a summer program to fund free admission to museums, zoos, and historic sites for families.
In South Carolina, $25 million went towards a scholarship program for community college’s focused on workforce preparedness, the report stated. About $7.7 million in North Carolina was used to fund mental health programs at higher education institutions.
Some states used the aid to build up “slush funds,” the report stated. Approximately $578 million of the COVID-19 funds still have not been spent or allocated to K-12 schools districts.
“Whether these and similar grants made with leftover EANS money are good uses of federal funds in general matters far less than the issue of dollars intended for K-12 nonpublic schools going elsewhere,” the report stated. “Though not all 50 states were ready to report to us how much EANS money (if any) they’ve allotted for nonpublic school students and teachers, it’s clear they handled it in 50 different ways. At least $585 million, if not more, of the $736 million that has yet to reach nonpublic schools is at risk of being directed away from schools that need it.”