(The Center Square) – A Freedom of Information Act request submitted to Kalamazoo Public Schools to learn how the district spent more than $63 million in federal taxpayer dollars has been satisfied with a $263.66 award.
The Center Square submitted the FOIA to KPS in late July.
The federal government has given $6 billion to more than 850 Michigan schools to help students recover from learning loss due to COVID-19. Several school districts in Michigan have provided free spending records of millions of federal COVID-19 dollars, but the KPS has not.
The SCP transparency page comprises seven pages spending plan starting December 2, 2021, for elementary and secondary school emergency relief programs and some others. The district said it would spend $63 million between 2019 and 2022. KPS planned to pay $3.9 million in 2019-20, $6.5 million in 2020-21, and $53.3 million in 2021-22.
Planned major purchases include:
- $16.2 million for projects to improve indoor air quality.
- $14.5 million to address learning loss.
- $12.2 million for “activities necessary to maintain the operation and continuity of services”.
- $4.1 million for pandemic preparedness and response.
- $2.1 million for student education technology.
It is unclear if this is the final spending plan. KPS says extracting COVID-19 expense records would cost the Assistant Superintendent of Operations 4.23 hours at an hourly rate of $62.33.
SCP said it calculates labor costs for the Freedom of Information Act using the salary of the lowest-paid district employee capable of researching, locating, and reviewing public records.
Some school districts – such as Austin, TX — provided itemized expenditures of $242 million in COVID funds for free without the need for FOIA. The city of Saint-Louis has a website on which he posts all his federal COVID expenses. The city of detroit and Detroit Public Schools Community District also attempts to track over $1.2 billion in spending.
It’s unclear why KPS charges over $250 for public records when other communities provide the information for free and even add it to their websites.
KPS did not respond to a request for comment at the time of publication.
Flint Public Schools, which received about $156 million in federal COVID relief, did not respond to requests for records for 13 business days, despite FOIA rules requiring them to respond within five business days of receipt of a request by the FOIA Coordinator.
The FPS received $50,000 per student, but it’s unclear how that money will be spent or why those schools won’t disclose the expenses to taxpayers. One possible reason is that much of the spending might not directly address COVID-19 concerns.