I know there are more than a few of you out there who often think those who ran public education in North Carolina engage in questionable budgeting practices. Well, you’re not alone. Yesterday Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger distributed a strongly worded press release and letter accusing the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the State Board of Education (SBE) of ignoring provisions contained in the 2015-16 state budget. Specifically, Sen. Berger said that the two entities planned on using funds designated for the Read to Achieve program to fund other DPI positions to help it address a legislatively required $2.5 million budget reduction.
As Senator Berger wrote:
I understand that DPI has proposed taking crucial funds designated for helping children learn to read and using them to preserve DPI’s bloated bureaucracy in clear violation of the budget’s requirement for a reduction in the department’s operating costs. I further understand the department t is attempting to cover this up by re-labeling existing positions and workload within DPI as additional support for the Excellent Public Schools Act, despite clear direction from the Office of Budget and Management (OSBM) that doing so would be inconsistent with the intent of the budget reduction to DPI and would not accomplish budget expansion of the Excellent Public Schools Act as required by law.
If that wasn’t enough, the letter states that DPI and the State Board of Education went forward with the action even after OSBM notified members that doing so would be “inconsistent” with the budget. Moreover, it also appears that members from DPI and SBE crafted the policy behind closed doors – in clear violation of North Carolina’s Open Meetings law.
So now what? Sen. Berger is asking SBE to “reconsider” it’s budget proposal at its February meeting and make it consistent with the required budget reductions. It will be interesting to see what happens — or doesn’t happen.
And here I thought it was just always about the kids.