As MPS Closes Due to Heat, IRG Offers Expertise on ESSER School COVID Relief Funding, HVAC

Aug 23, 2023 | In The News, Press Release

August 23, 2023


Contact: Quinton Klabon, [email protected]

As MPS Closes Due to Heat, IRG Offers Expertise on ESSER School COVID Relief Funding, HVAC

Delafield, Wis. — As Milwaukee Public Schools closed today from dangerously high temperatures, reporters have asked, “What happened to the federal COVID relief that districts were given? Could that have been spent on HVAC/air conditioning?”


The Institute for Reforming Government is a national pioneer in tracking the last and biggest round of school COVID relief, ESSER III. IRG has tracked allocations for every district in Wisconsin and put it into an interactive database. IRG also analyzed it and will do so again September 1st. IRG’s work was on the front page of the Wisconsin State Journal and was featured on Wisconsin Public Radio.

IRG is committed to helping journalists ask questions of school boards and the Department of Public Instruction to make sure that the kids who were hurt by pandemic policies get their rightful recovery funding. In fact, IRG has looked at both Milwaukee Public Schools and HVAC specifically in its analyses. 


Milwaukee Public Schools has $367,546,593.00 out of $505,523,567.00 approved by the Department of Public Instruction to spend, $168 million of it for construction. The other 27% has not yet been approved.

MPS has made public and updated a plan for ESSER III, and it sourced from schools specific construction projects. The construction numbers in its plan appear to contradict the numbers approved by DPI.


Because MPS did not commit to HVAC in 2021, it is too late. Supply chain delays and nationwide, relief-driven demand for HVAC supplies have backed up requests long after the September 2024 ESSER III spending deadline. Madison Metropolitan School District had to pivot to other allocations from such delays.

According to the MPS board, DPI has not approved spending plans swiftly enough, stressing districts eager to help students. It took 10 months for MPS to get DPI approval of its spending plans thus far. This would push districts past realistic HVAC procural.

MPS chose other renovations over air conditioning, anyway. While IRG believes that schools should prioritize student learning and mental health over construction, especially in districts like Milwaukee, we show that HVAC temperature control keeps kids in school and comfortably learning. However, MPS put tens of millions into carpeting, locker rooms, fieldhouses, and auditoriums. While Wisconsin is one of the few states that does not provide state support for school renovations, many of these renovations are in underenrolled schools that may well consolidate once it approves its new strategic plan.

We encourage reporters to use IRG as a fair, facts-based, pro-student source as they ask important questions of the adults in charge.

Have questions? Reach out to IRG Senior Research Director Quinton Klabon at [email protected]. Follow him for education analysis on Twitter at @GhaleonQ. Support Wisconsin’s kids.


The Institute for Reforming Government is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that seeks to simplify government at every level by offering policy solutions to thought leaders in American government in the areas of tax reform, government inefficiency, and burdensome regulations.

Learn more about the Institute for Reforming Government here.