WRAL Investigates

NC public schools' stimulus spending in question

Posted February 4, 2011 5:00 p.m. EST
Updated February 15, 2011 10:39 a.m. EST

WRAL Investigates

— North Carolina's public schools received $380 million in stimulus money that was supposed to save teaching jobs, provide services for low-income students and purchase supplies. A WRAL News investigation has uncovered that some of that spending is in question.

Two-hundred twenty school systems and charter schools received stimulus money, and newly returned audits question some of that spending. If school systems can't prove they followed the rules, they'll have to pay it back.

The audits raised questions about stimulus spending in about a dozen systems, including Wake, Sampson and Wayne counties.

The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction is investigating $147,000 in spending in Wake County and $172,000 in Sampson. The biggest chunk of questionable spending is in Wayne County, totaling $1.4 million.

The funds involved are called Title I and are based upon the concentration of students from families who live in poverty. The money had to be directed at those students, so any services that helped the entire school system would not qualify.

Schools could also use the money to buy equipment or provide extra teacher training, but only Title I students could benefit.

DPI program directors are investigating the spending, and if they deem it inappropriate, schools will have to pay back some or all of the funding.

“Every dollar counts in this tough economic time, and when it comes to this report, it’s still just too early to know how that’s going to impact us,” Wayne County schools spokesman Ken Derksen said Friday. “Next week, we may get something back from the state that says, ‘Hey, these dollars have been identified,’ but it’s still too early to speculate just how that’s going to impact the budgets, how that’s going to impact Title 1 programs and impact the school district.”