Governor Stitt had a libertarian theory. If you give out government money to families for education, they know what’s best. Turns out, some do and some don’t.

Jennifer Palmer of Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier wrote:

Just get the money to families. That was the driving force behind Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan for $18 million in U.S. Department of Education relief dollars intended to help students during the coronavirus pandemic.

Other states used federal money to train new teachers or support programs for deaf and blind students. But in Oklahoma, a history teacher with political ambitions helped a Florida tech company win a no-bid state contract to rapidly distribute $8 million to families with little government oversight. Another $10 million went to private school vouchers.

With few guardrails, some families used Oklahoma’s share of federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Funds to buy Christmas trees, gaming consoles, electric fireplaces and outdoor grills, an investigation by Oklahoma Watch and The Frontier has found.

Months later the teacher, Ryan Walters, was on a national stage as Stitt’s new Secretary of Education, calling the effort a success.

Oklahoma’s contract with the Florida-based software company ClassWallet allowed families to quickly purchase educational supplies online through grants funded with federal relief money through the Bridge the Gap Digital Wallet program. At a virtual conference for a national school reform group in 2020, Walters touted the Bridge the Gap program as a model for how to start a school voucher program with “minimum staffing requirements and maximum quality control.”

“We didn’t have the government agency personnel with the background experience to do this and, quite frankly, we felt like there could be a more efficient way to do this outside our government agencies,” Walters said.

From the start, the strategy led to a lack of oversight on purchases, possibly violating the terms of the federal grant and state purchasing requirements, according to federal regulators.

While most parents spent the money on educational supplies, Oklahoma Watchand The Frontier found nearly half a million dollars in questionable purchases. The news organizations found at least 548 TVs purchased through ClassWallet worth $191,000.

Families also bought pressure washers, car stereo equipment, coffee makers, exercise gear and smart watches.

Isn’t a power washer a school supply?