Updated: Mar 13, 2022
By: Sloan Rachmuth
Education First Alliance has reported since May that the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) does not prioritize programs that reverse learning loss among children caused by school shutdowns. Yesterday, a legislative oversight committee agreed, finding that North Carolina's public school students are getting shortchanged despite the DPI receiving billions in federal funds.
On Tuesday, The General Assembly convened its Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations to examine how more than $5.8 billion in federal funding for COVID is being spent by Superintendent Catherine Truitt’s DPI. While knowing the consequences of school shutdowns on student learning, the Superintendent has barely attempted to respond, according to the Office of State Ethics.
According to the committee, there has been little spending of most of the federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER) allocated to the state. However, the money the DPI spent went to programs with no academic value, reducing the time teachers can devote to reading, math, and science instruction in the classroom.
We have highlighted a couple of examples this year:
State-wide teacher trainings in Culturally Responsive Teaching: The DPI offered a 9-week teacher intensive to "engage educators on a cultural and identity reflection with direct application to curriculum resources," so that new, "remixed" resources can be "openly shared across the state of NC." Teachers were trained in ways to "disrupt" schools and to "demolish" the current education system, as shown in videos of the training. The instructors admitted that the training should lead children to become political activists.
DPI Spends $50 million to prioritize “Social-Emotional Learning:” The DPI planed to use roughly $50 million to "support all students' SEL needs" requiring schools to incorporate lessons on "creating caring, just, inclusive" communities in all twelve subjects.
DPI prioritizes these programs while 23% of all students were at risk of academic failure in 2021, and almost one-third of third-graders were actually held back this year because they failed 2021 reading exams.
The Washington Examiner reported the following about yesterday's hearing:
The Joint Legislative Commission on Governmental Operations' Subcommittee on Use and Distribution on Federal COVID Funding has been reviewing how the state has spent its federal relief funding to respond to the pandemic. Lawmakers asked the evaluators to look at how learning loss has impacted North Carolina.
Evaluators said student academic performance has dropped across all grade levels because of the pandemic.
This is how the DPI's reaction was described in the article:
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Catherine Truitt slammed the evaluators' findings. She said there were many inaccuracies. Truitt, who was elected in November 2020, touted her efforts to reopen schools as soon as taking office.
Truitt pointed to her operational plan, Operation Polaris, which she said includes steps to address learning loss and other issues impacting North Carolina's K-12 schools. She also created the Office of Learning Recovery and Acceleration (OLRA).
"The director of the Office of Learning Recovery and I share a vision that we can support districts who have wide discretion in how to spend this money and over whom we have no regulatory authority to ensure that they are good stewards of this federal money."