Center Square reports on how Gov. Bill Lee’s Administration continues to fail our public schools. This time, the news is about how Lee’s team has failed to expend millions of dollars in CARES Act funding at a time when Tennessee teachers are literally dying from COVID.
More than six months after receiving more than $596 million in federal COVID-19 relief for education, entities in Tennessee have spent just over 43% of the funds, according to data from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE).
Under federal law, states must spend education-related COVID-19 relief within one year of the grant date by the U.S. Department of Education, or funds must be returned to the federal government. Tennessee funds were awarded by the USDOE in late May, so agencies have less than six months to spend the remaining 62 percent of funds before they are returned.
This is also noteworthy:
The federal database does not report how much of the $64 million in Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) funds awarded to the Tennessee Department of Education the state has spent, but state documents provided to The Center Square reveal the state’s plan for use of those funds, including $30 million earmarked for implementation of a literacy coaching program and literacy training for K-3 teachers statewide.
Let’s just be clear: Gov. Bill Lee cancelled a planned teacher pay increase this year fearing COVID-related economic concerns. Then, received millions in CARES money (Tennessee’s share for education was around $600 million). Lee did not offer teachers a bonus for teaching in a pandemic. He didn’t direct money to schools. His team is just sitting on the cash. Then, they put additional money toward a suspect literacy program.
Let me say this again: Tennessee teachers are dying because of failed leadership at the state level. District leaders look to Bill Lee who says it’s totally fine to operate without a mask mandate and that schools should be open — schools, by the way, are open, even if the buildings are closed. Lee is sitting by while teachers die and sitting on money that could help schools and kids.
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