Wasteful ESSER Expenditures


Top 10 Wasteful Expenditures of School COVID Relief Funds Ranked:

  1. Wisconsin: In one of the most stunning examples of relief fund abuse, the Whitewater, Wis., school board voted to allocate 80 percent of its $2 million Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grant toward the construction of synthetic turf fields for football, baseball, and softball. When asked why the funds should be used for athletic fields instead of educational projects, Whitewater High School Athletic Director Justin Crandall told the school board that he did not envision the district as one “that would go to a referendum for turf fields.” Rather than put Crandall’s theory to the test, the school board decided instead to bill the American people for the projects. The Hill

  2. Ohio: The Youngstown, Ohio, district lost $5 million in relief funds on an internet service contract with an Arizona company to offer Wi-Fi signals from city buildings and utility poles. But the project collapsed because the city didn’t own all the utility poles. The district couldn’t recover the money it spent on equipment, and the unused supplies now sit in a warehouse. The 74 Million

  3. California: “There’s a district in the Central Coast area that bought an ice cream truck with their money,” Fine said. “When I was told that I kind of went off.” Fine declined to name the district. He said he talked to district leaders and learned they used the truck to drive around and give away ice cream to kids stuck at home during the early days of the pandemic. He said he still has questions about the truck – like why they couldn’t just lease one, or whether they’ll eventually sell it and repurpose the funds. But he said he came to realize it was “a way to make a nontraditional connection with kids.” CalMatters

  4. Texas: 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. The Hill

  5. Tennessee: In Shelby County, administrators justified giving schools a $1,485,582 facelift, “To make our district buildings in Weakley County cleaner and more efficient to prevent, protect, and limit the risk of COVID-19 to our staff, students, and guests.”  Changes included the renovation of front office flooring and new paint on walls, doors, and trim at one elementary school.  Likewise, Westview High replaced the flooring in its office and upgraded the sound systems in the theater and gym.  Taxpayers can rest assured that students, faculty, and guests at these schools will be protected by the new paint, flooring, and sound systems that are surely COVID-19 resistant. Citizens Against Government Waste

  6. West Virginia: In Upshur County, the school district spent $60,000 of federal funds on pool passes. Other funds were spent on private school expenses, food and a student choir trip out of state. The 74 Million, The Weirton Daily Times

  7. Utah: And in the Granite Public Schools in Utah, roughly $86,000 in relief funds covered accommodations at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas last summer for teams from 14 schools to attend an annual conference. The 74 Million

  8. California: Santa Ana Unified gave $393,000 to Angels Baseball LP to rent out the major league baseball stadium for last year’s (2021) high school graduation festivities. CalMatters

  9. Colorado: In Douglas County, Colo., the school board spent $800,000 on Edgenuity, an online learning platform, in a no-bid “emergency” procurement. Rather than use local teachers, the platform utilized pre-recorded classes for students to watch. After a period of delays that was “nothing short of chaos,” students were finally able to begin using the online platform at the end of August. Teachers and students were highly critical of the program. One student’s grandmother reported that her grandchild had four different teachers in five days, while another parent described it as “a bait-and-switch.” The district stopped using Edgenuity several weeks into the school year but did not receive a refund. The Hill

  10. Georgia: The Colquitt County Board of Education misspent more than $265,000 of COVID-19 relief money, according to a new audit. The school district received $19.7 million in Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund money for Fiscal Year 2022. This is according to the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts. “Testing revealed that payments were made to a janitorial company and a staffing services company utilized by the School District to provide ‘retention’ bonuses to contractors who were not employees of the School District. These individuals were assigned to work within the School District by the private companies,” auditors wrote. Georgia Public Policy Foundation