Without more oversight, districts could forfeit $160 million in federal aid

State Auditor Elaine Howle has called for greater oversight in the way local education agencies (LEAs) spend federal coronavirus relief funds. A review conducted by the State Auditor’s Office found that “education has not taken a strong leadership role in ensuring that LEAs are effectively and promptly using the [Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund or ESSER] and [Governor’s Emergency Education Relief or GEER] funds.”

The California Department of Education is monitoring less than 1% of LEAs for compliance, according to the report. The CDE has not required quarterly spending reports and it has not identified or provided assistance to LEAs at risk of not spending all of their allocations by deadline. As a result, with nearly one‑fifth having spent 20% or less of their allocations, the auditor projects they could forfeit as much as $160 million.

The audit makes several recommendations. These include continued tracking of LEAs that fail to submit their quarterly spending reports and hiring additional staff to ensure they do so; identification of LEAs at risk of not spending all of their allocations in time; identification of best practices that have helped some LEAs spend their ESSER and GEER funds quickly and the sharing of these best practices with others; establishment of a new monitoring policy specifying the number of LEAs that will be monitored; and use of spending data to determine which LEAs are at higher risk of noncompliance.

Read the report here