by Dr. Robert Luebke
Director of the Center for Effective Education, John Locke Foundation
The pandemic has impacted Wake County Public Schools (WCPSS) in a variety of ways. Achievement gaps have hardened and learning loss has caused many at-risk groups to fall even farther behind.
In 2021-22 Wake County Public Schools had 36 schools that were classified as Low Performing Schools. A low performing school has a school performance grade of “D” or “F” and a growth status of “Met”or “Unmet.”
Over the past year and a half, WCPSS saw an enrollment dip of over 3,000 students at a time when 64 people continue to flock into Wake County every day
The good news, WCPSS has received nearly $442 million in federal covid relief funds to address learning loss and help populations most impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Let’s see how WCPSS is spending covid dollars
As of August 31st. WCPSS has spent $252.8 million in covid relief dollars. Currently $189.3 million or 43 percent of all covid funds WCPSS has received are unspent.
WCPSS covid expenditures fall into the following categories
Salaries– $170.7 million – 68 percent of all Funds
Extended Contracts – $18.0 million
Bonus Pay – $95.5 million
Instructional Support – $8.4 million
Benefits – $28.0 million – 11 percent of all Funds
Employer Social Security =$12.6 million
Employer Retirement Cost – $8.4 million
Purchased Services – $17.9 million = 7 percent of all Funds
Building & Land Repairs – $9.2 million
Contracted Services- $6.0 million
Supplies and Materials – $28.0 million – 11 percent of all Funds
Supplies and Materials – $13.7 million
Computer Equipment – $10.9 million
Capital Outlay – $88,960 – .04 percent of all Funds
Purchase of Furniture and Equipment – $88,690
Other – $7.9 million – 3 Percent of all funds
Indirect Costs – $5.5 million
Transfers to Enterprise Fund – $2.4 million
Is covid money getting to needy students?
Almost 80 percent of covid funds for WCPSS is spent on salaries and benefits. That’s a percentage higher than any other county in the state. Despite a consensus in the research that tutoring is the best way to remedy learning loss, WCPSS has spent only a little over $347,000 or about .14 percent of covid funds — on tutorial pay. The school system spent about the same amount of money ($356,000) on Psychological Contract Services as they did on tutorial pay.
Of course expenditure data doesn’t tell the whole story. But it does reveal WCPSS priorities. With Forty-three percent of covid funds still unspent and test scores telling us of the crying need for remediation, it’s clear money is not getting to the neediest students. Isn’t it time to start asking some questions?