Today, Committee on Education and Labor Republican Leader Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Committee on Oversight and Reform Republican Leader James Comer (R-KY), and Oversight Committee Republicans are launching an investigation into the Biden administration's oversight of pandemic relief funds for school districts amid concerns funds are not being adequately targeted to remedy learning losses resulting from school closures. In a letter to Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, the Republican lawmakers are requesting all documents and information about learning loss resulting from pandemic school closures, policies governing the use of COVID-19 relief funds for K-12 students, and the Department’s communications with teachers unions.
“As members of the House Oversight Committee, we insist that you provide information on the Department of Education’s (Department) handling of COVID-19 relief funds. We, and the American people, are due an explanation on how and whether the Department is addressing the negative effects of prolonged school closures on children enrolled in K-12 programs across the country in light of the appropriation by Congress of a total of $263 billion for the Education Stabilization Fund (ESF) over the course of three pieces of legislation. According to media reports, the vast majority of these ‘emergency’ funds remain unspent. Study after study shows the learning losses caused by prolonged pandemic school closures are compounding and preventing students from achieving academic success. Committee Republicans plan to ensure the Department is doing everything in its power to ensure states and school districts properly target funds to remedy the acute learning losses brought on by prolonged pandemic school closures,”wrote the Republican lawmakers.
In June 2020, the American Academy of Pediatrics strongly recommended that students attend school in person. However, as late as January 2022, teachers unions championed remote learning despite clear indications of harm to students’ mental and academic fitness. Under the Biden administration, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention allowed the American Federation of Teachers to modify official guidance to ensure schools did not fully reopen. Prolonged school closures have resulted in acute learning loss, widened economic and racial inequality in learning, and created a mental health crisis for America’s youth.
“Despite the clear harms to America’s students, we are concerned that school districts, particularly those that remained closed for over a year, have not spent the vast majority of funds made available during the pandemic. Instead of allowing these funds to languish, school districts should be using the money on evidenced-based interventions to get our students back on track or even school choice. Instead, many states and local school districts are failing to act or are using the funds on ‘new technology,’ positions that are not student-facing such as a Director of School Climate and Culture, or other pet projects that will not benefit students or put them back on the path to academic success," continued the Republican lawmakers.