FACT CHECK: Did one Illinois school really get $5 billion for CRT?

FACT CHECK: Did one Illinois school really get  billion for CRT?

(WMBD) — US Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) had a lot to say about Illinois education spending during a congressional hearing Wednesday, but people aren’t sure her claims are accurate.

The House Oversight Committee held a hearing in which Comptroller General Gene Dodaro answered questions about the use of federal funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the hearing, Greene claimed that an unnamed elementary school in Illinois had received a copious amount of money to be put toward teaching critical race theory.

“In Illinois, they received $5.1 billion at an elementary school there that used it for equity and diversity,” said Greene. “So it’s being used for these things.”

By “these things,” Greene is referring to critical race theory, or CRT, which is a law school-level education theory that has been conflated with diversity education by many in the Republican party.

Is any of this true?

Short answer: No.

Long answer: It is true that Illinois received over $5 billion in education funding during the second round of COVID-19 relief funding in 2021. This was part of the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Relief program (ARP ESSER) which distributed over $81 billion to all 50 states.

It is not true that all of this funding went to a single elementary school. The money was split between 851 school districts in Illinois.

The most that any one school district received was the City of Chicago School District 299, or Chicago Public Schools, which is estimated to have received $2,791,383,319 from Illinois’ ARP ESSER funds.

A full breakdown of funds by district can be found in the spreadsheet below.

As for how schools use the funding they are allotted, that is not specified. However, the priorities of ARP ESSER funds as stated in Illinois’ plan include:

  • Strengthening supports for current educators and expanding the teacher recruitment pipeline
  • Providing comprehensive supports students, particularly those related to social-emotional learning and mental health
  • Closing the digital divide

Diversity, equity, or inclusion efforts – let alone college-level CRT – are not among the priorities listed.

More information about how each school district used these ARP ESSER funds can be downloaded from the Illinois State Board of Education’s website.

A spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Education responded to Rep. Greene’s claims, particularly in regards to the definition of equity.

“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,” said Jackie Matthews, ISBE Executive Director of Communications. “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.”