I’ve been reporting a lot lately about the federal COVID-19 relief funds for education. Something that crossed my radar recently is an ongoing federal audit of Governor Kevin Stitt’s education programs by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General.
As part of the CARES Act in 2020, all governors received money to provide emergency assistance to K-12, higher education and other education-related entities.
Stitt used $30 million of his $39.9 million allocation to implement three programs:
• Learn Anywhere Oklahoma ($12 million) which provided schools and students access to virtual classes;
• Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet ($8 million) which gave low-income families grants to purchase laptops, curriculum and tutoring;
• Stay in School Funds ($10 million) which provided tuition grants for private school students (one of several ways I found that private schools received recovery dollars.)
The audit appears to be routine — part of the inspector generals’ commitment to oversee the trillions of dollars in emergency federal spending to address the coronavirus pandemic. They will be issuing individual reports on selected states, with Oklahoma and Missouri the first underway.
Auditors will be checking whether states 1) awarded the GEER funds in a way that supported the schools most impacted by coronavirus and 2) ensured recipients used the funds in accordance with CARES and other federal requirements.
Stitt received a second GEER allocation of $17.7 million from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act but has yet to announce plans for it. His deadline to award those funds is January.
I plan to write about the federal audit once it’s complete, and will continue reporting on the effectiveness of these programs. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you. Questions? Story tips? As always, email and DMs open.
Editor’s Note: Education Watch will be taking a break next week but we’ll be back after Thanksgiving.
— Jennifer Palmer
What I’m Reading
- Epic begins staff layoffs to adjust to shrinking post-pandemic enrollment. [Tulsa World]
- Critical race theory could shape upcoming elections. [The Frontier]
- Former charter school leaders misused more than $250,000 while its board looked the other way, audit finds. [NonDoc]
- Students’ reading scores lagged before the pandemic. Remote classes made it worse. [The Hechinger Report]
- Brand new, battery-powered school buses are coming, thanks to Biden’s infrastructure plan. [Time]
Help Us Make a Difference
During times of crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic, Oklahoma needs high-quality investigative journalism. That is our mission at Oklahoma Watch. We produce stories that hold government and public officials accountable and that make transparent what some prefer to keep secret. We depend on financial support from readers like you to sustain our coverage. Help us make a difference.