By Steven Allen Adams, The Parkersburg News and Sentinel
WHEELING, W.Va. — West Virginia lawmakers learned Monday that issues surrounding spending by county school systems of COVID-19 dollars go far beyond the actions of one or two counties.
“It seems like there is a massive problem and we should be reviewing everything,” said Del. Kayla Young, D-Kanawha. “It seems like that we don’t have full control over what these (county school boards) … are spending.”
Members of the Joint Standing Committee on Government Organization heard a report Monday from the Legislature’s Performance Evaluation and Research Division (PERD) regarding the spending of federal dollars made available between 2020 and 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic for county schools.
Legislative auditors found numerous issues with how county public schools spent millions in available COVID-19 dollars, including alleged misuse, counties doing business with vendors not registered in West Virginia, and an inability by the state Department of Education to adequately monitor misuse of COVID dollars.
West Virginia received more than $1.2 billion between three phases of Elementary And Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds between 2020 and 2021 through the Coronavirus Aid Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
For all of those dollars, the Department of Education’s Office of Federal Programs (OFP) had a total of three employees to do cyclic monitoring of ESSER expenditures by counties once their fiscal year spending was completed. While counties turn in full reports on spending, OFP staff only review a sample of transactions.
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