by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
What is happening to all that money Wake County Schools (WCPSS) is getting for covid relief?
According to the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, WCPSS received $433.4 million to help redress the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. So far WCPSS has only spent about $195.1 million, or about 45 percent of the covid funds it has received. Those figures represent the latest data available and reflect spending up to April 30th of this year.
What has WCPSS spent the money on?
According to data, 68 percent of all WCPSS covid spending goes to salaries; money which most often, goes to pay for new positions or bonus pay.
Nearly seventy percent of all covid expenditures going to salaries seems high. How do those figures compare with other large school districts in North Carolina?
Remediating learning loss is one of the top priorities for federal covid relief programs. WCPSS has stated it plans to spend another $255 million for pandemic relief including, $28.8 million on educational technology, $30.1 million on additional instructional support and another $32.7 million on Summer Learning.
Some say that may have already happened or will yet happen. However, If your check expenditures, you may have your doubts. Only $4.1 million has been spent on computer equipment, including $1.1 million on computer software and nothing on computer hardware. According to plans, WCPSS will spend $30.1 million on instructional support by the end of the fiscal year. To date, it has only expended $7.1 million. Moreoover, WCPSS plans to spend $32.7 million on Summer Learning programs. However, spending of that magnitude doesn’t yet appear visible in current expenditures.
The General consensus among educational researchers is that tutoring is the best way to remediate covid learning loss. WCPSS spreadsheets reveal zero for “tutors within the instructional day” and only about $73,000– or four-tenths of one percent — on “tutorial pay” WCPSS is clearly ignoring that option and using covid relief funds to hire more staff and pay employees bonuses.
That too many students are lagging months behind in English and Math is tragic. Misspending money or refusing to spend money to address the scope of learning loss is worse yet; and should send off the alarm bells.