Perhaps you’ve heard that the $1.9 trillion House spending bill is meant to provide “urgent” and “emergency” relief. But did you know that the Covid emergency in America’s schools will apparently last through 2028?
The House proposal showers K-12 schools with nearly $129 billion. That’s on top of the $13.2 billion allocated in last spring’s Cares Act and the $54.3 billion in December’s bipartisan splurge. According to the Congressional Budget Office, schools have spent only a fraction of that previous $67.5 billion. It’s hard to spend money when schools aren’t open for classroom instruction since unions have resisted returning to work in much of the country.
Because of this leftover cash, CBO estimates that a mere $6.4 billion of the new aid package will be spent for K-12 schools in the 2021 fiscal year. That’s right—only $6 billion of $129 billion will be spent during the pandemic emergency.
CBO estimates that $32.1 billion will be spent in fiscal 2022 on K-12 schools, $32.1 billion in 2023, $25.7 billion in 2024, $19.3 billion in 2025, $9 billion in 2026, $2.6 billion in 2027, and $1.3 billion in 2028.
In other words, this isn’t about Covid relief. School districts can spend the funds on a wide range of options—from sanitizing classrooms to “continuing to employ existing staff of the local educational agency”—and the money is fungible. This means that, after the pandemic eases perhaps as soon as this year, school districts are likely to use the money to pad their bureaucracies and teacher payrolls. One of the bill’s few limitations is that local educational agencies must spend 20% of their funds to address “learning loss” with interventions such as summer school or extended-day programs. This would require more money for teacher pay or additional hiring for union dues-paying positions.