By CASEY HARPER
THE CENTER SQUARE
(The Center Square) – Top Republicans in the U.S. House are pursuing an investigation into reports that federal tax dollars designated for COVID-related learning loss were spent to promote “equity warriors,” critical race theory programming and more at local schools.
The lawmakers point to billions of dollars spent across multiple pieces of legislation to help local schools deal with the pandemic, including $122 billion in the American Rescue Plan, $54.3 billion in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act as well as $13.2 billion in the CARES Act for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund (ESSER).
Now, House Committee on Oversight and Reform Ranking Member Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., and Committee on Education and Labor Ranking Member Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., are leading a group of Republicans in an investigation into how those funds were spent. They sent a letter to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona as well as multiple state leaders addressing how “some states are spending taxpayer dollars to push progressive left causes.”
“For example, California used ESSER funds for training in ‘environmental literacy,’ ‘ethnic studies,’ and ‘LGBTQ+ cultural competency,’” the letter said. “New York used part of the $9 billion it received to provide staff development on ‘culturally responsive sustaining instruction’ and ‘privilege’ and to recognize ‘equity warriors.’ Illinois received $5.1 billion, which it partially used to emphasize ‘equity and diversity’ and make ‘equity driven investments.’ At least ten other state plans included proposals to use the ESSER funds to implement racially biased curriculum and programs based on Critical Race Theory.”
The investigation comes amid new data from the Department of Education showing that during the pandemic, national test scores declined the most in decades and particularly affected minority students.
The DOE report showed the average score for 9-year-old students dropped 7 points in math and 5 points in reading from 2020 to 2022, erasing decades of improvement in those areas.
Notably, the report found that in math, “the 13-point score decrease among Black students compared to the 5-point decrease among White students resulted in a widening of the White−Black score gap from 25 points in 2020 to 33 points in 2022.”
Now, the Republican lawmakers want to know if the billions of taxpayer dollars were put to good use.
“Based on recent reports, the Department of Education is allowing Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and related COVID relief funds to pay for racially biased and other progressive leftist programs,” the letter said. “Specifically, Congress created the fund to enable schools to safely reopen and address learning loss caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Those taxpayer dollars, however, are being used to indoctrinate children in core tenets of leftist ideology.”
Lawmakers called the pandemic shutdown-related learning loss a “global disaster.”
“Overwhelmingly, school shutdowns occurred in states and localities led by Democrats who chose to keep schools closed much longer than was necessary, often at the behest of teachers unions. Instead of using ESSER funds to address these dramatic learning losses, some states are spending taxpayer dollars to push progressive left causes,” the letter said. “New York used part of the $9 billion it received to provide staff development on ‘culturally responsive sustaining instruction’ and ‘privilege’ and to recognize ‘equity warriors.’ At least ten other state plans included proposals to use the ESSER funds to implement racially biased curriculum and programs based on Critical Race Theory.”