Instead of spending COVID relief money on updated HVAC units or other public health measures, the Denver Public Schools are using their taxpayer-funded aid to expand summer school programs that voters never approved. During the pandemic, schools across the nation received billions of dollars to aid them through lockdowns and mandates when in-person learning was resumed. Unfortunately, The Massive Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSR) funds were released with little to no stipulations and so many districts are using the money for various “other” purposes than what they were distributed for.
Instead of auditing public school districts more closely and working to ensure that taxpayer money isn’t misappropriated, the Department of Education has overlooked the extensive misuse of emergency funding. The Biden Administration has said nothing on this subject. Now American families are feeling the effects of a failing economy and many are wondering if the extensive spending packages pushed through during the pandemic were entirely justified as ESSR funding is expanding summer school, being used to pay for ordinary classroom materials, and even spent to insert identity politics into the classroom.
What’s more, although states have received unprecedented amounts of money, some have continued to complain that they need more. Taxpayers are spending record amounts in some areas yet the public education system is constantly failing students. Obviously, summer school programs can and do benefit students who thrive with added lessons during education breaks, but how funding is utilized is a serious issue that affects every student.
School enrollment is down across the nation. A teacher’s shortage is simultaneously displaying a lack of interest in the modern education system. Parents have stepped in to take a more active role in their children’s lessons and are offering more guidance at home, due to a lack of support from school officials. Whether summer school programs will appease them is uncertain, but the Denver Public School’s focus may not be placed on the families paying for their services at all.
The current summer school program is utilizing $5 million of its ESSR funding to “support attendance.” The district is focusing heavily on students learning English as a second language, and about half of the enrolled students are Hispanic. Colorado had the 6th highest rate of illegal immigrants in the United States according to a 2016 Pew Research Center report. This is about 10.6% of students, 70% of which arrived through the southern border. As the border crisis has allowed in an estimated one million more illegal immigrants during the first half of 2022 alone, those numbers have likely increased.
While many wish to help children no matter where they come from, the fact of the matter is that taxpayer money is being spent on programs it was not allocated for. This is added to the fact that public school funding, for programs like summer school care, is being utilized to support families who have not paid into an already struggling system. Until fiscal responsibility is returned to public school expenses, budgets will continue to be unsustainable.
For now the Denver summer school program is educating children during their long break. How funding for future programs will be acquired is uncertain, but COVID relief money is set to expire in the fall of 2024. Whether ESSR money will continue to pay for lessons and classroom materials unrelated to public health concerns is uncertain, but based on previous reports, likely.