CA Schools Received $ 26 Billion For COVID-19, How Did Your District Spend It? – NBC Bay area
The COVID-19 pandemic has crippled the learning of many students, leaving some children with years behind their classmates. In an effort to combat this education crisis, the federal government has distributed billions to schools across the country, including here in California. Despite the financial windfall, some local teachers and school staff told NBC’s Bay Area Investigation Unit that they saw very little of the money being used to respond to inquiries. learning needs of students in the classroom.
Greg Kogel teaches a combined second and third grade class in the Alum Rock Unified School District in San Jose. Kogel believes it is essential for students at this age to stay up to date as it is more difficult to catch up with future grade levels.
“If you read at school level in second or third grade, the chances of graduating from high school are much higher,” Kogel said. “We have to get them to read and write and pay attention to it. “
However, Kogel wonders if administrators in his district share his sense of urgency.
“They didn’t add teacher assistants, rotating teachers, additional administrators,” Kogel said.
In June, the nonprofit Policy Analysis for California Education released a report showing that students in 19 school districts were about two and a half months behind in English and math due to the pandemic. Kogel thinks the reality is probably much worse, with some students in his district testing two years late in these subjects.
“We need more manpower during our contract hours to run the school more efficiently and we haven’t seen this in years, ”Kogel said.
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit analyzed federal stimulus data for more than 1,500 school districts and charter schools in California.
Records show Alum Rock Unified spent around $ 15 million on expenses, including school meals, PPE, and student counseling. However, the district still has $ 32 million remaining.
ARUSD Superintendent Hilaria Bauer told NBC Bay Area the district still hasn’t received all of the money it was promised. Of the $ 46 million allocated to the district, they only have access to $ 20 million at this stage. Bauer plans to use the remaining money to hire additional tutoring, including tutors and paraprofessionals.
MONEY NOT SPENDED
The Alum Rock Unified School District is far from the only district with tens of millions of unspent stimulus dollars. Since the start of the pandemic, the federal government has injected more than $ 26 billion into California schools. Records show that three-quarters of all that money had not been spent as of June 30.
Heather Hough is the Executive Director of PACE. Hough says there are two big reasons spending is blocked.
“One is that a lot of districts are just having a hard time hiring for these positions for the same reasons we see staffing shortages in other industries,” Hough said. “The second reason is that a lot of the people who are in schools have to work on things like contact tracing and COVID-19 testing. “
Hough believes schools will eventually find a way to spend all of their federal funds. Districts have different deadlines between May 2021 and September 2024 to use the money. Any remaining grant money runs the risk of being withdrawn by the federal government.
“It has been a challenge to be able to put these plans in place,” Hough said. “I think that’s where the data really comes in and I don’t think we currently have a great infrastructure to be able to communicate that. The pandemic has really disrupted all of these systems. “
Kogel believes these system failures are putting more pressure on teachers who need help.
“I would like taxpayers to pay more attention to how these districts spend money,” Kogel said.