COVID-19 relief bills: Education-related spending

This wi-fi-enabled school bus, seen at an apartment complex on Thursday, March 27, 2020, is one of many being sent to rural and lower-income areas to help students with distance learning during the new coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Meg Kinnard)

RALEIGH — The COVID-19 relief bills unanimously passed by the General Assembly and signed by Governor Roy Cooper includes around $231 million in K-12 funding.

The two biggest expenditures include $75 million for school breakfast and lunch programs and another $70 million for supplemental summer learning, reading and math programs for elementary students.

House Bill 1043 took care of funding issues such as government operations, businesses and education, while Senate Bill 704 handled various policy changes needed due to COVID-19.

The funding in the bills comes from the four bills passed by Congress, including the CARES Act, and not from the state. The over $1.6 billion in the bills cannot be used to replace or make up for lost state or local government revenue.

In terms of technology needed for remote learning, $30 million will go to local school systems for the purchase of computers and other electronic devices for students who need them and $5 million will be for similar purchases for school employees. Around $4.5 million will be allotted for cybersecurity at schools.

The Department of Public Instruction will get $1 million for boosting and improving student access to the internet by installing Wi-Fi routers on school buses, and $11 million to improve internet connectivity for students by providing internet access devices.

Students who have issues with remote learning or have limited or no internet access are covered as well with $3 million allocated for “non-digital remote instruction.”

$5 million is set aside for at-risk students and $10 million for student mental health services. A separate $15 million in grants will cover “extraordinary costs” that districts or schools might incur.

At the end of April, The State Board of Education approved asking the legislature for a total of over $380 million in additional funding related to its COVID-19 response and needs.

  • $99,715 for “oversight of state & federal COVID-19 funds” to hire an Auditor II position
  • $5.5 million for cybersecurity infrastructure and related services
  • $7 million has been requested for Summer Bridge/ Jumpstart programs
  • $17.9 million for exceptional children
  • $55 million for “Re-entry Resources for Student Physical & Mental Health”
  • $56 million for school nutrition; including a $5 “incentive” pay increase
  • $153.8 million remote learning, training and technology costs

Also near the end of April, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that over $13.2 billion in emergency relief funds would be made available to state and local education agencies to use for continued learning purposes in K-12.

North Carolina K-12 education is already been approved to receive $388,875,202 in CARES Act Education Stabilization Fund Grants. The Department of Public Instruction has one year from receipt of those funds to make sub-awards. Any remaining funding beyond that time period will be reallocated to other states.

About A.P. Dillon 272 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_