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SLUSH FUND, Pt. 2: How Districts With Most Learning Loss Wasted ESSER Funds

The Districts Who Suffered the Most Learning Loss During COVID Are Also Wasting Their Relief Dollars

Check out Part 1 of Our Series on How Local School Districts Are Using ESSER Funds as a Slush Fund HERE.


Yesterday, we took a look at how 3 school districts, whose leaders have complained about a "lack of resources", are using their COVID relief funds as a slush fund to pay for building renovations, new equipment, and playgrounds- rather than investing in raising the bar for students in their districts.


Turns out, the districts who suffered the most learning loss during the pandemic are not immune from misusing their relief dollars (intended to help students catch-up) either- despite their students needing the investment the most. Today, we'll provide transparency into how the districts who suffered the most learning loss, according to LEAP test results, have been using their funds. Those districts are:

District

Percent Mastery & Above, 2019

Percent Mastery & Above, 2022

% Change

Evangeline

36

24

-12

City of Monroe

28

20

-8

St. James

41

33

-8

St. John the Baptist

24

16

-8

St. Mary

36

28

-8

Vermilion

49

41

-8

Vernon

46

38

-8

Given the learning decline in these districts, parents, students, and taxpayers should expect the Superintendents in these districts to invest significant funds into evidence-based methods to help students recover to at least pre-pandemic levels, with the hundreds of millions of federal dollars at their disposal to do just that.


Instead, just like in the districts we covered yesterday, leaders are using those funds as a slush fund to invest in building improvements and renovations, with expenses as egregious as new playgrounds, bleachers, new kitchen supplies, printers, and cameras for "social distancing".


In total, these 7 districts spent, or are planning to spend, $83,515,779 on those types of expenses that don't do a thing to address the dire learning loss suffered by students. You can see the full breakdown of those expenditures here, with district-by-district highlights below:

  • Evangeline Parish:

  • $1.4 million in HVAC improvements

  • City of Monroe:

  • $7.4 million restroom renovations

  • $6.5 million multi-purpose building expansion

  • $5 million gym expansion

  • $4.5 million band room expansion

  • $2.8 million for stadium seating and press box renovations

  • $2.3 million architect fees for building expansions

  • $1 million playground equipment upgrade

  • St. James Parish:

  • $1.1 million HVAC improvements

  • $275,000 intercom system upgrade

  • $12,792 kitchen equipment

  • St. John the Baptist Parish:

  • $1.8 million HVAC improvements

  • $1.6 million to "expand bus fleet in an effort to support social distancing"

  • $1.5 million camera system for social distancing

  • St. Mary Parish:

  • $20 million on roof replacements

  • $1.7 million camera system for contact tracing and social distancing

  • $1 million for "entry system upgrades" to isolate students during COVID wellness checks

  • Vermilion Parish:

  • $3.4 million building upgrades

  • $1 million playground equipment upgrade

  • $1 million intercom system upgrade

  • Vernon Parish:

  • $1.1 million in new buses to "be in compliance with COVID 19 social distancing measures"

  • $700,000 for "cameras for schools to support student supervision for social distancing"

Once again, the districts who have the most need to invest in their students are instead chasing shiny objects, under the guise of preventing the spread of COVID. Instead of spending money on new buildings, buses, and bleachers, maybe school leaders should be held accountable for investing in tutoring, teachers, and training to overcome the learning loss seen across the board.


While school leaders have fought to keep poor performance hidden and against transparency in how these funds are being spent, we will continue in the coming weeks to shine a light on how school districts across the state are throwing hundreds of millions of dollars away, rather than focusing on improving student outcomes.


You can read all of our past stories on Louisiana's education swamp here.


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