Data: 303 Michigan Schools Haven’t Touched ESSER III COVID Funds

by Scott McClallen


More than 300 Michigan school districts haven’t touched their final tranche of federal COVID money, according to lagging spending data from the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University.

The data, updated on Oct. 28, 2022, tracks Elementary and Secondary Emergency Relief III spending. It shows that billions of dollars haven’t been spent from more than $5 billion of federal monies given for pandemic learning-loss recovery.

The data say Benton Harbor Area Schools hasn’t touched $29 million, Jackson Public Schools hasn’t touched $22 million, and Taylor School District hasn’t touched $28 million in ESSER III funds.

BHAS hasn’t touched the money yet because the district is ensuring money is spent in the correct categories, Director of Information Services Paul Korson told The Center Square in an email.

BHAS was awarded three rounds of relief, each with different funding requirements. If it violated spending rules, then “[w]e would be required to pay the funds out of our general ledger which would have a high possibility of putting us back in the budget deficit that we’ve been working hard to recover from,” Korson said.

Korson said the school finished ESSER I drawdowns, has allocated ESSER II funds, and should be finalizing the journal entries to draw down the funds at the beginning of the new year. Then, it will handle ESSER III funds. Within the last six months, the school witnessed a transition of its Superintendent and CFO.

“With all of these allocations, there is a large amount of work to ensure compliance and that funds are adequately allocated,” Korson said.

Through every round, BHAS has gathered feedback from students, staff, and community and is balancing the desire for spending, what is allowable, and what will make the most significant impact on student learning, Korson said.

“We understand that there is a narrative of funds not being spent or that they are being spent inappropriately,” Korson wrote. “We are working diligently to be transparent good stewards of the funds and ensure that they contribute positively to our student’s future success.”

Similarly, Taylor School District is still working on ESSER III funds and is finalizing ESSER I and II funds, Administrative Assistant to the Superintendent Shawna Maynard told The Center Square in an email.

In contrast, 19 Michigan school districts have depleted ESSER III funds, Edunomics Lab data say.

K-12 Alliance of Michigan Executive Director Robert McCann said the COVID funds did a “world of good” by providing extra support for reading, tutoring, and other recovery programs.

Of American Rescue Plan funds provided to Michigan schools as of Sept. 30, 2022, 19.6% – or $731 million out of $3.7 billion – has been spent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

The ESSER III funds must be obligated by Sept. 30, 2024.

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Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on and Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Teacher and Students” by Mikhail Nilov.




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