When the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools across the country to shut their doors in March, 2020, the federal government responded by pumping billions of dollars into local school districts to keep kids safe and educated.
Every three months, school districts in California must report to the state how they’re spending all of that federal stimulus money.
The NBC Bay Area Investigative Unit reviewed 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 districts NBC Bay Area reviewed reported receiving a collective $26 billion. But, out of the $26 billion, records show they only spent 6.9 billion through June 30. That leaves three quarters of the emergency funding still unspent.
Get a weekly recap of the latest San Francisco Bay Area housing news. Sign up for NBC Bay Area’s Housing Deconstructed newsletter.
It’s important to note that different districts received different amounts depending on their size and community income level.
For instance, San Francisco Unified School District received $186 million and still has $134 million unspent. Meanwhile, Palo Alto Unified School District spent most of the $8.5 million they received, with just over $2 million remaining.
Jon Coupal, president of the government watchdog Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association believes large school districts that were awarded more money may also require 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 has to jump in and pass legislation dictating the appropriate uses of that money.”
The California State Auditor is currently in the process of reviewing whether the state distributed this money to districts in a timely fashion and ensuring districts spent the money appropriately.
How School Districts Spent $6.9 Billion
Out of the $6.9 billion spent so far, districts spent 2.1 billion in the area of learning support. Administrators we spoke to say that money went to pay for things like summer school and more teachers to keep class sizes small. Another $2.1 billion went to pay for devices and technology like laptops. After that, $911 million went to pay for PPE and cleaning supplies. An additional $655 million went to prevent layoffs of non-teaching staff like office workers and bus drivers. Schools spent the least amount of money on categories involving building repairs, spending $74 million thus far.
If you have a tip for the Investigative Unit, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 888-996-TIPS. Follow Candice on Facebook and Twitter at @CandiceNguyenTV, or send her an email at Candice.Nguyen@nbcuni.com