Mystery request for $250 million pops up at State Board of Education meeting

Mark Johnson, Superintendent, N.C. Department of Public Instruction

RALEIGH — During the emergency meeting of the N.C. State Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Superintendent Mark Johnson questioned a $250 million dollar request to the Office of Budget and Management.

The board meeting had been called to discuss federal funds North Carolina will be receiving.

The $2 trillion federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, supplies roughly $389 million in aid for education purposes and school districts in the Tar Heel state. Around $94 million in federal education relief funding will be given to Gov. Roy Cooper to spend at his discretion.

The CARES Act education funding includes $13.2 billion for K-12 schools and $2.95 billion for governors to supplement education-related relief efforts.

The question about the $250 million request came as the board was discussing the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund. Johnson said that the State Board of Education had sent a request to the OSBM (Office of State Budget and Management) Wednesday evening for $250 million related to coronavirus relief.

Johnson noted that this request was not on the agenda and that it did not include funds for special education students.

Johnson said that State Board of Education chairman Eric Davis was not being transparent with the public and that there was a lot of confusion on who was “calling the shots” and what was being requested from the legislature and the state budget office.

Many of the board members also said they had not received notice of the request at all. Lt. Gov. Dan Forest, along with board members Amy White and Olivia Oxendine, all asked for copies of the documentation pertaining to the request.

“These items are not on our agenda today. It’s being put on a future agenda,” Davis said before moving on to the next agenda item.

He also accused Davis of approving a contract that sent money to a client of board member and Cooper appointee, J.B. Buxton.

According to the email obtained by North State Journal, the $250 million request was submitted and approved by Davis and was sent to the Office of Budget and Management by Freebird McKinney, the director of Legislative and Community Affairs.

McKinney is a former N.C. Teacher of the Year was recently hired into the position at the State Board of Education.

The funding breakdown for the request includes $80 million for child nutrition, $75 million for a summer school program, $50 million for digital teaching and learning resources and $1.5 million K-3 Literacy and Core Instructional Support.

In addition, the request asks for $50 million for “whole child support” which includes School Social Workers, School Psychologists, School Nurses, and School Counselors for low-performing schools.

About A.P. Dillon 274 Articles
A.P. Dillon is a North State Journal reporter located near Raleigh, North Carolina. Find her on Twitter: @APDillon_