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EXCLUSIVE: House Republicans are launching an investigation into the Department of Education for allegedly allowing COVID-19 relief funds to pay for “racially biased” and other far-left programs in public schools.
House Committee on Oversight and Reform ranking member James Comer, R-Ky., and Education and Labor Committee ranking member Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., led a series of letters signed by 30 GOP lawmakers and sent Wednesday afternoon to Education Department Secretary Miguel Cardona and others.
“Republicans are investigating the use of COVID-19 relief dollars appropriated for virus mitigation and the safe reopening of schools,” the lawmakers said in their letter. “Based on recent reports, the Department of Education is allowing Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and related COVID relief funds to pay for racially biased and other progressive leftist programs.”
They state that Congress allotted $13.2 billion in the CARES Act and $54.3 billion in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 for Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, which were intended to enable schools to reopen safely after the pandemic and assess learning loss.
An additional $122 billion was provided under the American Rescue Plan, President Biden’s signature legislation, for school reopening and to “address the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the Nation’s students.”
However, Republican lawmakers say that instead of using ESSER funds to address learning loss, some states, including California, New York and Illinois, are using those funds to “push progressive left causes.”
The congressmen cite how California allegedly used ESSER funds for “LGBTQ+ cultural competency” trainings, New York used $9 billion to fund “equity warriors” development, and Illinois used over $5 billion to make “equity driven investments.”
The lawmakers also accuse at least 10 other states of having plans that include a “proposal to use the ESSER funds to implement racially biased curriculum and programs based on Critical Race Theory.”
One Republican committee aide told Fox News Digital that despite there being no meaningful guardrails in the legislation, the use of the funds for equity and diversity falls outside of the law’s intended purpose, which was to reopen schools and make up for lost learning.
The COVID relief legislation does include a final catchall provision allowing spending on “other activities necessary to maintain the operation of a continuity of services in local education agencies,” which do not mention any certain trainings or curriculum.
Republicans are demanding all documents and communications related to the use of ESSER funds being used toward critical race theory, diversity, equity and inclusion and other racially biased trainings or programs, according to the letter.
The letters were sent to Cardona, Education Department Inspector General Sandra Bruce, New York State Department of Education Commissioner Betty Rosa, Illinois State Board of Education Superintendent Carmen Ayala, and California Department of Education Superintendent of Public Instruction and Director of Education Tony Thurmond.
The Education Department, California Department of Education and New York State Department of Education did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s requests for comment.
“Yes, equity drives all of our investments, especially our investments of federal pandemic relief funds into high-impact tutoring, closing the digital divide, summer and afterschool programs, and mental health community partnerships,” responded Jackie Matthews, executive director of communications for the Illinois State Board of Education.
“Equity means providing all schools with the funding and supports they need for all students to meet high expectations — which is a strange and troubling thing to see anyone criticize,” she continued.”
Cardona has previously denied that critical race theory is being taught in K-12 schools.