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Lawmakers Seek to Ease Restrictions on School Funds Amid COVID-19

More than 40 North Carolina legislators are cosponsoring a bill to permit school districts to allocate funds with greater flexibility as a result of the pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
More than 40 North Carolina legislators are cosponsoring a bill to permit school districts to allocate funds with greater flexibility as a result of the pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
May 27, 2020

RALEIGH, N.C. -- New legislation seeks to give more flexibility to North Carolina school districts in how they use state funding.

More than 60% of the money public schools receive comes from the state, but state Rep. Brandon Lofton, D-Charlotte, said that because of strict rules in the way dollars are allocated, the districts don't have much wiggle room as they try to adapt to changing conditions due to the coronavirus.

"Money that the state allocates to a school district to be spent for driver's education has to be spent on driver's education," he said. "It can't be spent on other areas, such as increased costs because of remote learning or school nutrition."

If enacted, House Bill 1139 would allow districts to transfers funds between different allotments. A state task force is working on guidelines for potentially reopening schools in the fall, including staggering school hours, a combination of remote and in-person learning, and daily COVID-19 symptom screening for students and staff.

In order for the state's more than 1.5 million students, teachers and administrators to safety return to school grounds, Lofton said, there's a long list of resources to budget for "in terms of social distancing, in terms of sanitation efforts, disinfecting desktops and things of that nature; and so, having the flexibility for our school districts to be able to adapt to changing conditions on the ground is going to be critical."

He said remote learning also has placed unforeseen financial burdens on schools, especially in rural districts working to ensure that all students have reliable access to computers and the internet.

The text of HB 1139 is online at ncleg.gov.

Nadia Ramlagan, Public News Service - NC