Yesterday State Auditor, Beth Wood, released results of an audit highly critical of how the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) allocated $180 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds.
Generally speaking, the audit showed the agency failed to follow proper procedures to ensure funds were 1) properly spent and 2) accomplished their intended purpose.
Some of the lowlights:
- NCDPI distributed $31 million of Coronavirus Relief Funds for Summer Learning Programs without having any methods in place to assess if student ability was improved.
- NCDP disbursed $7 million for Nutrition Services without being able to assess if children who most needed the meals actually received them or whether social distancing and personal hygiene measures were sufficient to protect those associated with the program
- NCDPI distributed $76 million to public school units in the wake of Coronavirus. However, NCDPI failed to monitor the funds to ensure funds were not misspent.
DPI contested many of the findings and the audit includes DPI’s response. DPI sent out another statement yesterday that said many of the auditor’s concerns were addressed in the DPI response included in the audit.
Curiously, DPI chose not to provide the statement on its web site.
This is the third critical audit DPI has received in a little over a year.
Last year, a state audit found “significant mistakes” with the Department of Public Instruction’s financial statement. One error led to the DPI’s overstating the payable claims in its balance sheet by for its insurance fund by $23 million.
Earlier this year the auditor released a report critical of DPI oversight of Federal Grant and especially ineffective monitoring of Federal Title I spending. Then, in September, another report from the State Auditor found courses offered by the NC Virtual Public School (NC VPS) contained plagiarized content, often infringed on copyrights and lacked intellectual rigor. The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction administers NC VPS
It’s a troubling pattern.
NC DPI receives more state funding than any other state agency — by far. If the agency fails to demonstrate that funds are being spent wisely for the purposes intended, changes are in order.
These problems will likely end up on incoming State Superintendent Catherine Truitt’s growing “to do” pile. Whether she can skillfully navigate the ins and outs of educational bureaucracy is yet to be seen.
It is worth noting, that none of the news articles I’ve read that reported on the results of the audit had any comments from lawmakers – the policymakers who authorize money for NC DPI. You can bet many are not happy. Getting the legislative temperature will go a long way in determining if these developments will lead to long-term changes.