When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools across the country to close in March 2020, the federal government responded by injecting billions of dollars into local school districts to keep children safe and educated.
Every three months, school districts in California are required to report to the state how they’re spending all that federal stimulus money.
NBC’s Bay Area Survey Unit looked at the most recent data from the California Department of Education for more than 1,500 school districts and charter schools to find out where the money went.
The NBC Bay Area districts examined said they received a total of $ 26 billion. But, of the $ 26 billion, records show they spent only $ 6.9 billion until June 30. This leaves three quarters of emergency funding still unspent.
It is important to note that different districts received different amounts depending on their size and the income level of the community.
For example, the San Francisco Unified School District received $ 186 million and still has $ 134 million unspent. Meanwhile, the Palo Alto Unified School District spent most of the $ 8.5 million it received, with just over $ 2 million remaining.
Jon Coupal, chairman of the government watchdog Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, believes large school districts that have received more money may also need more oversight.
“They’re given a ton of money and yet they haven’t figured out the best way to spend it, ”Coupal told NBC Bay Area. “I think this is where the State of California needs to step in and pass legislation dictating the proper uses of this money.”
The California State Auditor is currently reviewing whether the state distributed this money to the districts on a timely basis and ensuring that the districts spent the money appropriately.
How School Districts Spent $ 6.9 Billion
Of the $ 6.9 billion spent so far, districts have spent $ 2.1 billion on support for learning. Administrators we spoke to said the money was used to pay for things like summer school and more teachers to reduce class sizes. An additional $ 2.1 billion was spent on the purchase of devices and technologies like laptops. After that, $ 911 million went to pay for PPE and cleaning supplies. An additional $ 655 million has been spent to prevent layoffs of non-teaching staff like office workers and bus drivers. Schools have spent the least money on categories involving building repairs, spending $ 74 million so far.
If you have a tip for the Investigation Unit, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-996-TIPS. Follow Candice on Facebook and Twitter at @CandiceNguyenTV, or email him at Candice.Nguyen@nbcuni.com