House Republicans have launched an investigation into the Department of Education regarding its intended use of coronavirus relief funds during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the Washington Examiner.
The group of Republican lawmakers, led by Reps. James Comer, R-Ky., and Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., are demanding the DOE hand over its records affiliated with learning loss during the pandemic, along with how school districts spent $263 billion in federal coronavirus relief funds.
According to GOP leaders, a "significant amount" of federal funds allocated for coronavirus relief for schools have either gone unspent, or were devoted to items that had nothing to do with COVID-19.
The request for information also includes communications with outside or third-party groups — including teachers unions — regarding school closings and reopenings.
The GOP letter to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona reads: "Study after study shows the learning losses caused by prolonged pandemic school closures are compounding and preventing students from achieving academic success. Committee Republicans plan to ensure the Department is doing everything in its power to ensure states and school districts properly target funds to remedy the acute learning losses brought on by prolonged pandemic school closures."
The House Republicans' investigation could reveal other problems with COVID-relief disbursement, particularly school mandates that might have lacked constitutional substance.
In January, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration for ordering the state to stop awarding federal COVID relief funding to schools that didn't comply with COVID-era health recommendations, such as mandatory masks.
In a reported 24-page filing, Ducey asked a judge to block the U.S. Department of the Treasury from withholding or clawing back COVID-19 stimulus funds.
"The Biden administration is attempting to hold congressionally appropriated funds hostage and is trying to bully Arizona into complying with this power-grabbing move," Ducey said at the time.
Earlier this month, a separate Examiner report detailed how school districts throughout the country had used federal coronavirus relief funds on non-COVID-related expenses, including diversity and equity training among staffers and online learning infrastructure.
Also, one school district reportedly invested the coronavirus funds on the installation of field-turf athletic fields.
GOP lawmakers are especially interested in the teachers unions' roles with reopening schools, according to the Examiner.
Last year, news broke of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) allowing the nation's largest teachers unions to review and approve its guidance on reopening schools, before the document was released.
Congressman Comer, the ranking Republican member of the House Oversight Committee, blamed "the Biden administration's collusion with a radical teachers union" for the learning loss resulting from closed schools.
"America's students are suffering from acute learning loss, a mental health crisis, and untold consequences from the Democrats' prolonged school closures," Comer recently told the Examiner.
Comer added, "This crisis demands urgency but so-called emergency funds are not being used to help students who have suffered from school closures. We need Biden's Department of Education to provide answers about why these funds are not being targeted to remedy learning losses."
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