In response to the pandemic, Congress passed several bills, including the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), that boosted public education funding by “nearly $190.5 billion.” The massive aid was provided in hopes of reversing learning loss, but instead, many school districts seem to be frittering it away on the extravagant and unnecessary.
As reported in The Hill: “…the massive increase in available funds and insufficient oversight has led to many school districts throwing money at projects unrelated to recovering from the pandemic, including sports facilities and an urban bird sanctuary.”
The article does well to document numerous instances of waste, fraud, and abuse. Somewhat surprisingly, one Texas school district was prominently called out.
“In South Texas, the McAllen Independent School District Board of Trustees allotted $4 million in ESSER relief funds to facilitate the expansion of the city-owned Quinta Mazatlan nature center. Although the district cited the ‘rare opportunity’ provided by ‘an authentic science lab right here in our backyard,’ the proposal received heavy criticism from district parents. One parent, Tory Guerra, rightfully questioned how the sanctuary was related to student recovery. Because the project won’t be completed until 2024, she observed, ‘half the kids won’t even get to reap the benefit’ of the nature center.”
Examples like this serve as a powerful reminder that Texas public education doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has spending problem. And that problem needs to be monitored closely over the next few years because it has been aggravated by a wave of federal money and lax oversight—neither of which bode well for taxpayers.