UPDATE 6:30 P.M.:
Thursday night Communications Director Abegale Cave said that $18 million was obligated but that the Federal Government had not updated its information.
According to Cave the funding now has to be spent within the next 120 days. Stitt’s office could not confirm where the money specifically will be going.
As of Thursday night the Federal website tracking the funds still states that no money was spent or obligated to be spent.
The federal website where the data is shown can be found at USAspending.gov.
The website says “Data shown here is retrieved from USAspending.gov weekly, meaning there could be an almost two-week delay between a State’s FSRS submission and its display below.“
OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – Millions of taxpayer dollars that were reserved for Oklahoma education during the pandemic could be headed back to the Federal Treasury, according to new numbers from lawmakers.
“It’s really unfortunate because they are not coming back to us,” said Vice President of the Oklahoma Educators Association Cari Elledge.
Elledge joins lawmakers across the aisle as the calls for why and how continued to grow Thursday.
According to a letter sent out to the Oklahoma House of Representatives, $17,712,950 of GEER 2, or Governors Emergency Education Relief, funding was not obligated by the Governor in time for its deadline of September 30.
“I’m appalled, disappointed for the children of Oklahoma that it wasn’t a priority for this administration,” said Representative Andy Fugate. “I’m sure educators are disappointed.”
The GEER Fund was meant to help out schools and educators during the pandemic. The State of Oklahoma had the opportunity to receive almost $18 million of it, but it had to be obligated by a certain date and according to lawmakers the state missed out.
The governor’s office decided to not comment but instead pushed KFOR to paragraph E-3.b of the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education’s 97-page document about the rules surrounding GEER funding.
The office reports that according to the rules from the OESE, GEER 2 funds were required to be obligated by September 30 and “liquidated” within 120 days following the obligation date.
The office reported that the: “funds were obligated in keeping with the requisite deadline. Reporting on these expenditures will occur as the programs are completed.”
One paragraph down on the same document reads:
If the grantee (SEA or Governor) is unable to obligate ESSER or GEER funds by the obligation deadline for each program, then the grantee will not be able to liquidate these funds. These unobligated funds will no longer be available to the grantee or subgrantee and will lapse and return to the U.S. Treasury.The Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
“I don’t want to contradict whatever the governor says but I’m all for putting more money into education,” said Representative Mark McBride. “All I know is that this is what didn’t happen on September the 30th and you know maybe they applied for it on that day and it didn’t show up yet.”
Elledge has been in education for 18 years and says that the past year has been quite a challenge for many teachers she knows.
“I can tell you that there was a major investment in public education from the legislature and the rhetoric and drama. It’s political theater if you will, and it is overshadowing very important stories like this major investment for public education that we just don’t have now,” said Elledge.
Data on the funds spent or obligated were taken from USAspending.gov.
“I can tell you that this year has provided additional challenges in education that we were not prepared for,” said Elledge. “Right now, morale is definitely an issue, and making sure that our educators know how important they are is major and why their job is so important for the future of the state of Oklahoma.”