This article by Jeremiah Poff was published March 30, 2023 on washingtonexaminer.com.
The report from the National Opportunity Project details the extent to which numerous states went to block the allocation of Emergency Assistance to Non-public Schools funds to schools that otherwise were eligible.
“Government mismanagement at federal and state levels ultimately kept qualified schools from accessing funds designated for them by Congress,” the report’s author and NOP senior policy analyst Jessica Hockett wrote. “The practical implication of this problem is that schools were unable to use the resources intended for them to address academic and mental health needs still accumulating due to the government’s handling of COVID.”
The funds in the Emergency Assistance to Non-public Schools program were supposed to support nonpublic schools that were adversely affected by lockdowns in the early days of the pandemic, much like the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund that supported public school districts.
The report says that a combined $736 million in funds dispersed to 27 states did not fund the schools they were supposed to. The cause for the lack of disbursement was linked to a number of causes, including poor government oversight, limiting permitted expenses, and governors taking advantage of a “reversion clause” that allowed states to spend unallocated funds for “any educational purpose.”
According to the report, $157 million in funds were ultimately disbursed under the reversion clause and were spent on a wide range of education-related projects, including on public schools.
In Alaska, $1.2 million in funds were spent on a Minecraft coding program, meanwhile Georgia and Colorado spent a combined $39 million on public school grants. South Carolina allocated $25 million to a community college workforce program, and Kansas spent $6 million on free admission to zoos and museums for students and families.
“Parents, activists, and school leaders should advocate for this federal funding to be used to address Covid-related learning loss in nonpublic schools by removing misguided criteria that prevented some schools from being eligible and by broadening allowable expenses to the fullest extent possible,” the report says. “Students and teachers at all U.S. schools — including private, independent, and parochial — were greatly impacted by the Covid response. Exposing the problems with the EANS program’s design and applications will help ensure that students receive the help they were promised.”
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