Massive federal “Covid Relief” spending bills allocated $2,185,882,951 (that’s billion!) to Minnesota in the past two years. How was this money distributed?
Minnesota’s State Plan for the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (PDF) uses the criteria laid out by the U.S. Department of Education. The Covid-19 Federal Funds per District Chart (PDF) itemizes how much the state allocated to each Minnesota school district.
As you review this chart, note that Column C is the current number of students in each district. Column P is the total federal money received for Covid relief in each district, and Column Q calculates the amount per pupil in each district. All of these dollars are new federal grants piled on top of the state appropriations and the federal funds schools receive through the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) annually.
Notice the huge disparity between districts in per pupil allocations! St. Paul’s total is $333+ million, and its per pupil allocation is $9,645. In contrast, East Carver County’s per pupil allocation is $644. Why the huge difference?
Criteria for the grant distribution are low-income families, children with disabilities, English learners, homelessness, and students in foster care. But one key criteria for allocating the grants is simply the number of nonwhite students, because they have been “historically underserved.”
The guidelines for how the money may be spent is loose. For example, Minnesota Democrats have focused for decades on incrementally creating “full-service schools.” They envision the schools as a hub providing students, families, and the whole community with access to social services, health care, mental health services, housing resources, food availability, career counseling, and so on. And they’ve had some success. But it’s been slow and piecemeal because those policies must pass the legislature! There is ample reason to reject this socialist plan for our schools.
Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is another system eligible for federal Covid Relief funding. SEL is a vehicle for instilling the values, attitudes, and beliefs of the Left into our children. SEL creates a massive data collection system of surveys, assignments, and projects to forever store every aspect of students’ thoughts, fears, hopes, and dreams. Students are continually evaluated for “making progress.” Developing and implementing “local data collection systems and reporting strategies” is part of Minnesota’s plan to use Covid Relief funds.
These and numerous other radical leftist plans are eligible for federal Covid Relief grants. School districts can implement their plans completely bypassing the legislature. There are no hearings where public testimony is required. Federal grants funnel money directly to school districts, empowering them to implement programs with little or no community oversight. Who is asking for a detailed accounting of how districts are using this money?
Districts usually post their state mandated Safe Learning Plan online. Some of those plans commit their districts to masking and other priorities. Others commit only to recommendations. It’s worth reviewing those district plans. But these plans will not itemize how the federal money was specifically spent. Taxpayers in each district need to ask their superintendent specifically how that money was or is planning to be spent. That information is public data. If a response is not forthcoming, or if you don’t have confidence in the information provided, we urge you to file a formal data request. You have a right and a responsibility to know. A model data request is listed below.
Moving forward, MDH released guidance for year round schools and summer school on May 27, 2021 based on current CDC recommendations. LEAs [local districts] that receive ARP ESSER funds will provide their plans in MDE’s SERVS application. MDE
will maintain a focus on equity in our review of plans and our continued support of LEAs in ensuring these policies are adopted and implemented (p. 10, emphasis added).
It is important to note that the term “equity” does not mean that individual students are provided the special help they need to succeed. Equity means that outcomes are measured by identity groups, primarily racial groups, and those identity groups must have equal outcomes. Under “equity,” some individual students are deliberately denied equal opportunity because the goal is not individual success. The goal is racial or gender group outcomes. “Equity” is a violation of equal protection under the law, a fundamental constitutional principle and individual right.
Progressive nonprofits and businesses are, of course, right on hand to help steer states and school districts toward using those federal funds to push their political ideologies. For example, The Achievement Network (ANet) offers a complete Guide to ESSER (Elementary & Secondary School Emergency Relief) funding. And for them, it’s all about Equity.
“How do we cultivate, develop and utilize an equity lens to disrupt systemic inequities?” ANet will give them all the plans and programs, designed just for that district.
ANet’s statement of beliefs is centered on “systemic oppression, white supremacy culture, and unconscious biases.” Their website is riddled with critical race theory talking points. Race, they believe, is the central conflict of history, and our schools, our culture, our Republic is irredeemably racist. Their goal is “dismantling systems of oppression.” This is not about academic excellence for all. This is about a radical political agenda.
There are likely numerous other progressive entities like Anet, ready to counsel school districts for a hefty fee, all out of sight of taxpayers, parents, and lawmakers.
In the Sartell school district, inquiring parents discovered the district paid $80,000 in federal Covid Relief funds to hire Equity Alliance Minnesota to conduct an ‘equity audit’ related ‘equity’ plans for the district curriculum. Students were asked invasive and disturbing questions relating to their personal beliefs and sexual identities.
Is your district engaging with any of these outside agencies? What consultants are they engaging? What are their federal Covid Relief expenditures?
Model Data Request letter
Name of Superintendent
Dear (Name of Superintendent),
Under the Minnesota Data Practices Act 13.01 et seq., I am requesting documentation in electronic form. I am asking for a detailed list of any and all funds from your District pertaining to federal Covid-19 relief, including, but not limited to, federal Covid Relief (CRF) dollars, ESSER I, II, and III dollars, GEER dollars, Extended Summer program dollars, and any other funds received regarding Covid Relief.
I also request a detailed expenditure report of all of the above funds– including all invoices, Contracts, or contracted services documents.
I am requesting a waiver of fees in that the disclosure of the above information is in the taxpayer (public) interest and will contribute to the public’s understanding of how their schools are run and on what their tax dollars are being spent. This information is not being sought for
Please confirm that you have received this. I ask that you respond to this request in a timely manner. Much of this information is readily available from your school accountants.
Thank you for your time,