City Comptroller Brad Lander released a spending report Wednesday which found that the NYC Department of Education (DOE) has been slow to spend federal COVID stimulus funds from fiscal year 2022 (FY2022).
The spending update found that less than 25% of cumulative funds were expended to critical areas of academic and instructional support as well as to social and emotional wellness programs through the first three-quarters of 2022.
While current re-opening expenditures are on track for this fiscal year, the DOE is far behind.
“Our students are counting on us to use this unprecedented influx of federal funding – all of it, not just a fraction – to deliver the academic and emotional support they need, as a result of two hard years of pandemic loss and disruption,” said Lander in a statement April 13. “Our city cannot afford to squander this opportunity to invest in the programs and supports to help our young people begin to succeed again academically, process the trauma they’ve experienced, and address long-standing inequities in our school system. We still have an opportunity to spend this one-time funding wisely – but the clock is ticking.”
These spending findings come after the Comptroller released an interactive public dashboard on March 1 to track the spending from FY 2022 and onward of nearly $11 billion in federal pandemic relief in NYC.
Through FY 2026, NYC is expected to receive a total of $26 billion in federal pandemic funding, with the largest category of funds going to the DOE, which received $7 billion through Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act (CRRSAA) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).
Following data received from the DOE regarding how funds were allocated in FY 2022, the NYC Comptroller’s office released an analysis comparing the DOE’s October 2021 spending plan to its actual spending from the start of the fiscal year to the first week of March 2022.
The Comptroller’s office found that according to this data three-quarters of the way through the fiscal year, the DOE has spent 65% of $1.3 billion total for re-opening healthy and safe schools (including Summer Rising for the Summer 2021 year), 22% of the planned $984 million in Academic and Instructional Support, such as early literacy, college and career prep, and special education and 24% of the $274 million allotted for social-emotional wellness programs, including 5% of the $12 million for restorative justice programs.
The DOE provided additional data and context to explain spending challenges including pandemic related delays, hiring difficulties, and supply chain issues as well as long contracting and procurement processes. School systems across the country have been slow to spend federal COVID aid.
“My top priority is always making sure our schools, students and their families have the resources they need to thrive,” said Bronx/Westchester Congressman Jamaal Bowman. “The remaining $1.5 billion in FY2022 funding tells me we need to couple it with support and capacity so these needed funds are fully utilized. By dedicating budgetary support to serve the whole child – rather than on resuming standardized tests in a pandemic despite the evidence showing us that year after year, standardized tests don’t improve student outcomes — I believe we can get our students back on track after the unprecedented challenges they continue to face in the ongoing pandemic.”
The DOE will be able to roll over unspent funds into FY 2023-2024 which could bolster current and ongoing initiatives, or be redirected to other priorities throughout the department. The Comptroller’s office urged the DOE to be more transparent about plans to reallocate funding and has set out clear outcome metrics to ensure federal funding is being spent effectively and equitably.
“A transition in administration cannot be an excuse for the lack of transparency and accountability we have had to date on the NYCDOE’s stimulus spending for critical resources to support students and families,” said Nyah Berg, Executive Director at New York Appleseed. “Moving forward, we are hopeful that the NYCDOE will support students and families not only through words but through long-overdue actions.”
The NYC DOE responded to the Comptroller’s report, saying that the data and report published were not a full representation of the department’s spending.
“The Department of Education is wholly committed to ensuring every student and school has access to the resources they need to succeed, particularly as students return to in-person learning,” said First Deputy Chancellor Dan Weisberg. “The Department of Education is committed to fiscal responsibility, and we welcome the Comptroller in joining us as we continue to use this money responsibly in ways that most impact students. We are disappointed at the Comptroller’s mischaracterization of our stimulus spending to date as indicative of the full year’s spending, particularly given that the snapshot of data as of early March does not account for all spending. This funding continues to be available to the Department of Education beyond this year, and we are evaluating ways to utilize any unspent funds to continue supporting students and schools going forward.”
The full report is available here.
Last updated 4/13/2022 1:03 pm