As a longtime supporter of Sunshine Week, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today joined Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) in introducing legislation that would bring further transparency to how tax dollars are being spent in schools. The senators asked for regular public updates on the reopening status of the nation’s schools and accountability for how the hundreds of billions of dollars in taxpayer money that is going to the federal Department of Education for COVID relief is being spent.
“We can’t leave our students behind during this pandemic. Getting students back in the classroom and up to speed should be our top priority,” Grassley said. “Congress has spent trillions of dollars to support businesses, families and schools to better navigate the obstacles created by the pandemic. As members of Congress, it’s our duty to ensure that these funds are being used appropriately and in a way that will directly benefit our students and teachers.”
“Experts have told us that keeping our classrooms closed is leaving a generation of students behind and having a devastating impact on our families, but bureaucrats in school districts across the country continue to ignore the science and keep the doors shut,” Ernst said. “Incredibly, Democrats are spending hundreds of billions of dollars on schools that won’t be used for half a decade, and have nothing to do with getting kids back in the classroom right now. Families have a right to know exactly how those tax dollars are being spent and whether or not they are being used to actively reopen our schools.”
The School Reopening and Spending Transparency Act would require the Department of Education to publish information on the use of COVID relief dollars and schools’ operating status. The Department of Education would establish and maintain a public website tracking the education expenditures by states of federal funds from the major COVID relief bills Congress has passed since the start of the pandemic, including the Democrats’ latest $1.9 trillion bill that included $128.6 billion in relief for schools. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimates that only 5 percent of the funding in the latest bill will actually be spent by the end of this fiscal year. In fact, it would take seven years for the money to be spent in its entirety.
This bill would also require the Department to report and update monthly the operating status of that nation’s school districts during the 2020-21 school year, tracking the number of days they are closed to in-person learning, providing hybrid learning or providing an option for full-time, in-person instruction for all students.
This comes as Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds has led the way in safely reopening schools and offering an in-person learning option for Iowa students.
In January, leading health experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that America’s schools should reopen as soon as possible if precautions are taken. President Biden’s own CDC Director Rochelle Walensky has also stated that it is clear “that there is increasing data to suggest that schools can safely reopen.”