LAS VEGAS (KLAS) – Last September, eight Clark County School District employees went to Hawai’i. The purpose was to recruit staffers.

According to documents 8 News Now obtained through a public records request, the staffers stayed at the Twin Fin Hotel located on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu.

The district used $22,182 in ESSER funds, which is COVID relief money, and another $9,774 from the general fund to pay for the flight, food, hotel, and conference room, according to documents obtained by 8 News Now.

That trip and several others that 8 News Now reported on have sparked a federal investigation.

“There has been communication from our office to the district about how to utilize ESSER dollars,” US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona told 8 News Now in April.

He was in Las Vegas at the time and stopped by the KLAS television station.

“We know the money was intended to help students recover from the pandemic, and make sure those dollars are used for that. That’s the responsibility we have,” Cardona said.

For its part, CCSD has defended the trips.

CCSD’s Chief Financial Officer Jason Goudie said at a CCSD Audit Committee back in February, that his office didn’t find anything wrong.

“All travel, regulations, policies, and procedures were followed. No violations under the grant status of the funding were noted in the review,” Goudie said.

CCSD records showed that 100 job seekers went to the Hawaii recruitment fair in 2023. The staffers were in Honolulu from Sept. 11 to Sept. 15.

However, the district’s records stated the fair only led to two resumes, and three attendees were “recommended for hire contingency.”

The Clark County Education Association has criticized the spending.

“The trips to Hawaii and Miami were a complete failure anyone can see that. You don’t go out recruiting in the middle of summer where educators are off on vacations themselves,” CCEA President Marie Neisess said.

In that Miami trip Neisess mentioned, records showed 17 staffers spent five nights at a Miami Beach oceanfront hotel last year during the Fourth of July holiday.

It cost taxpayers nearly $29,000, according to records obtained by 8 News Now.

The district has previously not commented on the investigation it’s facing for using COVID relief money for the trips.

However, the Nevada Department of Education released a statement to 8 News Now back in February that said:

The Nevada Department of Education’s Supporting Students Resource Guide currently outlines that ESSER funds may be used for “conducting other activities necessary to maintain the operation of services, employ existing staff, increase instructional hours that were reduced due to COVID-19, and coordinate activities.”

In an effort to refine and improve the ESSER allocation process, the Nevada Department of Education is currently evaluating the criteria and allowability requirements for ESSER funding requests of this nature.

The Nevada Department of Education (NDE) is currently working with the United States Department of Education (USED) to evaluate the use of these funds. The NDE provided documentation about the program approval process to the USED. Additionally, the NDE conducted its own research into the use of these funds and provided the findings to USED on January 30.

While the use of federal funding is an allowable expense for teacher recruitment and retention, each Local Educational Agency (LEA) is responsible for following their own policies and procedures regarding recruitment and retention.

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