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K12 Schools Get Relief Funding, But Less Than Requested

A water fountain inside a hallway at a school at Chapel Hill Carrboro Public Schools.
Brian Batista
A water fountain inside a hallway at a school at Chapel Hill Carrboro Public Schools.

The COVID-19 relief package the governor has now signed into law includes hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid for North Carolina's K-12 public schools. Those dollars will help schools continue to feed students and reach them through remote instruction.

The state Department of Public Instruction reports about 300,000 students lack the ability to connect to digital learning. In this first wave of funding, the department received $230 million, or less than two-thirds of the funding it requested. The funds will support meal services, remote learning and summer programs for at-risk kids.

One of the biggest gaps between what state education officials wanted and what they got was in funding to buy computers for students who don't have one.

Mark Jewell is President of the N.C. Association of Educators, the lobby representing teachers. He called the funding a good start.

"The needs are so great right now. It's going to take a lot more to meet the needs of our kids during the pandemic," he said.

Lawmakers also considered but did not suspend on-going class size reductions for elementary schools, something critics have long called an unfunded mandate.

The legislature still has about two billion dollars in federal funding to allocate and Jewell said the National Education Association will continue to lobby Congress for additional federal aid for students.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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