Federal Gov’s $190 Billion Handout For Public Schools Only Made Small Dent In Students’ Poor Test Scores, Studies Show

Maryvale Elementary School entrance, Rockville, MD

The federal government has handed a record $190 billion in aid to schools across the country since the COVID pandemic, but two new studies show students’ performance on key tests still lags behind pre-pandemic levels despite the outpouring of funds.

The Biden administration invested $122 billion into America’s public schools in 2021 alone and required that only 20% of the funds be spent on academic recovery, according to one of the studies. Both studies, conducted by Harvard, Dartmouth, Stanford and the University of Washington found through a sample analysis that test scores only improved somewhat when compared to the total amount spent.

Students nationwide have fallen behind massively, with 13-year-old students’ math scores dropping nine points and reading scores dropping four points from 2020 to 2023. The math scores dropped to their lowest level since the year 1990, and the decline in math scores was the largest in 50 years.

Harvard, Stanford and Dartmouth conducted a sample analysis in the study consisting of 5812 school districts and over 26 million students from 2019 to 2022. The study noted that while the federal aid increased results for student testing in particular school districts, the dollars didn’t have “as much impact as they could have had.”

Douglas N. Harris, an economist at Tulane University, who was not involved in the research, told NYT that “based on test scores alone, it doesn’t pass the cost-benefit test.”

The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funding, totaling $122 billion, went to 13,000 school districts across the country with little spending requirements, according to a study done by Edunomics Lab. Spending plans were made before leaders understood the decline in middle school math scores and the learning loss impact on high-needs students.

The ESSER aid supplied in 2021 was in addition to the initial round of $60 billion in funding from earlier years of pandemic aid money.

The second study, conducted by the University of Washingtonalso concluded that students’ test scores have not caught up to pre-pandemic levels, despite the $122 billion allocated in the ESSER funding.

“Had there been more pressure around academic achievement, and using the money for that purpose and more guide rails, I think it’s possible the money could have made a much bigger difference,” Dan Goldhaber, a co-author on the University of Washington’s study and a vice president with the American Institutes for Research told the NYT.

Both studies show similarities in that for every $1,000 spent, academic achievements increased somewhat, but not substantively. It would still take more federal funding for a full recovery to prior level, with the first study estimating $904 billion, roughly five times more than the $190 billion spent so far.

In 2023, the Biden administration also gave pandemic funding to colleges and universities, handing out nearly $76 million, despite universities having endowment funds.

The Education Department did not immediately respond to the Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

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