N.C. school districts have spent just 13% of federal COVID-19 relief, analysis finds

[CAROLINA JOURNAL] Public school districts in North Carolina have received about $5.3 billion in COVID-related relief from the federal government. But, on average, school leaders have spent just 13% of that money.

That’s according to an analysis of data from the N.C. Department of Public Instruction compiled by Dr. Bob Luebke, senior fellow for the Center for Effective Education at the John Locke Foundation.

“The low level of expenditures raise legitimate questions about the nature of the emergency and how federal dollars are spent,” Luebke said.

North Carolina’s share of federal aid for K-12 schools came from three sources: $773 million from the CARES Act, $1.6 billion from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, and, most recently, $3.6 billion from the American Rescue Plan. 

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Luebke examined LEA allotment and expenditure data from March 2020 through June 2021. The data show that school districts have spent about $708 million of the nearly $5.3 billion allotted, leaving an unspent balance of nearly $4.6 billion.

North Carolina’s two largest school districts — Wake County Public Schools and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools — have spent just 8% and 15% of their allotments, respectively.

“The low spending levels by districts, the multiyear spending plans, and extensive discretion local districts enjoy regarding spending are patterns inconsistent with the concept of emergency funding,” Luebke noted. “It does, however, raise the question: With the pandemic winding down and the emergency largely behind us, what will the remaining funds be used for?”

Luebke says tracking and accountability mechanisms are needed to know how the remaining $4.6 billion will be spent over the coming years. [CONTINUE READING]

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