Two Republican Senators are demanding answers following reports of blue state COVID-19 bailout funds being used for trips to Hawaii.
Sens. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) and Marco Rubio (Fla.) sent a letter on Wednesday to U.S. Department of Education Secretary Miguel Cardona to request an update on alleged misuse of the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER).
The letter follows reports of multiple California school districts that have discussed using state and federal COVID-19 relief money for bonuses to teachers and staff. Fox News reported one district’s union even proposed the funds be used for a trip to Hawaii.
“We need a full accounting of how taxpayer funds are being utilized to reopen schools,” said Blackburn in a statement. “These funds should be used for one purpose – getting children back in class.”
The Senator added, “Instead, the teacher’s unions are forcing schools to remain closed, while officials are doling out bonuses and reportedly planning taxpayer funded vacations to Hawaii. I’m sure these parents whose children have been learning from home for the past year would enjoy a free trip to Hawaii.”
The Dublin Teachers Association (DTA), located in the San Francisco Bay area, proposed its teachers receive a one-time $2,500 bonus with state and federal aid to be used for, among other things, “an airplane trip to Hawaii” when the pandemic is over, according to an internal memo obtained by Reopen California Schools.
Clovis Unified School District, in Fresno County, California, reportedly discussed using COVID-19 relief funds to give employees a “one-time payment to employees … given the extraordinary effort required of every employee over the course of the pandemic.”
Blackburn and Rubio’s letter expressed concern that “several school districts were considering using ESSER funding to pay teachers and administrators bonuses despite the limited in-person instruction provided by those schools.”
Instead, they argue government funds should enhanced student learning, citing studies supporting the importance of in-person education.
The full letter is available here.