A federal audit echoes our previous reporting on the Stitt administration’s Digital Wallet program, which dispersed nearly $8 million in federal Covid relief dollars to families. Due to lax oversight, some bought TVs, home appliances, and other non-educational items. Funding for the program came under the CARES Act and was meant to help students learn during the pandemic when many school buildings were closed.

(Oklahoma was trending on Twitter Wednesday, partly because of the new audit of Stitt’s handling of federal covid relief funds for education.)

But judging from reactions to our reporting on the program, Oklahomans were even more outraged that the administration returned $2.9 million in unspent funds to the U.S. Department of Education.

There’s a revelation about that money in a federal audit released Tuesday: it was reallocated to the state Education Department, which distributed it to public schools for summer school programs.

About $2 million of that had been earmarked for the Digital Wallet, Stay in School, and Learn Anywhere initiatives, but not used. Another $900,000 was never awarded.

But there are more unspent and return funds not previously reported. According to the audit, Oklahoma returned an additional $1.7 million in GEER funds in the fall of 2021. Because that occurred after auditors drafted the preliminary audit report, there are no additional details.

I’ve asked the U.S. Department of Education and the governor’s office for more information.

And a quick programming note: Education Week will be on a break next week while I attend the national conference of the Education Writers Association. As always, send me story ideas via email or DM. I’d love to hear from you.

— Jennifer Palmer

What I’m Reading

  • Oklahoma City Community College wiped out nearly $4 million in debt from thousands of student accounts, using federal COVID-19 relief dollars. [The Oklahoman]
  • The U.S. Department of Education has finalized new Charter School Program rules to place tighter restrictions on the program, which gives grants to charter schools in their first three years. [Education Week] Oklahoma’s attorney general argued against two proposed changes, which were abandoned for the final rules. [Oklahoma AG’s letter]
  • Community schools are gaining popularity across the country. The community school model addresses student needs holistically, including social, emotional and academic. [Teen Vogue]

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