Report questions Tennessee public school’s spending of $3.5B in COVID-19 relief funds

Aug 24, 2022 | Political News

(The Center Square) — A new report from Beacon Center of Tennessee shows that school districts throughout Tennessee received a total of nearly $3.5 billion sent directly to districts in COVID-19 recovery funding.

That funding, however, was then used by districts for items such as mattress pads, instant pots, toaster ovens, Apple pens, security cameras, sound systems, and sending teachers to a conference in Baltimore. The funds were part of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund, or ESSER, which has had three phases of funding.

The Nashville-based think tank sent public records requests for detailed spending from 12 school districts and found that spending of the funds included $25 million for a new building in Hamilton County schools, $3 million to design a new elementary school in Metro Nashville, $24,000 for Legos in Greene County Schools, $100,000 for retracted bleachers in McNairy County and $766,000 to upgrade to doors and windows with tinted glass in Lauderdale County.

The Beacon Center reviewed more than 2,000 documents that it took months to receive from the 12 districts in order to compile the itemized list.