State Superintendent Mark Johnson announced today that the N.C. Department of Public Instruction is disbursing $60 million in emergency capital funding for the public schools damaged by Hurricane Florence: $25 million from the N.C. Education Lottery fund and $35 million appropriated by the General Assembly Monday from the state’s rainy-day fund. The funds will go toward emergency capital needs for damaged schools in the 28 counties designated in President Donald Trump’s disaster declaration following the storm and flooding in September.
“I am pleased that the legislature and the governor agreed on the funds so quickly,” Johnson said. “We know the need is great, and we are wasting no time getting these funds to the schools that need them.”
Johnson alerted school districts Friday of funding from the $25 million transfer the governor approved last week, awarding the funds to five districts based on the directive to the department to use the funding to help reopen public schools that are still closed. The funding was distributed as noted below.
The funding was distributed on a pro-rata basis according to the districts’ stated need for funds to reopen closed schools. It represents neither the total amount of damage from the storm, the total amount the districts above (or other districts) have already spent on school damage, nor the amount of net state aid the districts will ultimately receive due to the storm. Jones County, for instance, has chosen not to reopen two damaged schools, partly because the state awarded the county $15 million a year ago under the state’s Needs-Based Public School Capital Fund program to begin construction of a new K-12 school building that will incorporate students from both closed schools. Likewise, Columbus County will receive $10.6 million for Columbus County Schools and $4.3 million for Whiteville City Schools in Needs-Based grants this year.
Following the unanimous passage of the 2018 Hurricane Florence Disaster Recovery Act on Monday evening, DPI will receive an additional $35 million in capital recovery funds to distribute to schools in the affected counties.
“Our school leaders have spent millions on remediation, repair, and other capital outlays because of damage from Florence,” Johnson said. “These funds will help fill the crucial gap between the needs we know are out there and what federal disaster aid, insurance proceeds, local ability to pay, and other sources will cover. Our goal is to get these remaining funds out of Raleigh as quickly as possible. Time is of the essence as these communities struggle to get back to normal.”
The emergency legislation also changed the way DPI will calculate student membership numbers, which determine how much of the $10 billion in normal funding for the operation of the state’s public schools is calculated. Any decreases in the average daily membership figure for each affected school district and charter school will be calculated based on the highest student population of the first four months rather than just the first two months of school. This change will assist districts and charters that experienced reduced membership due to student displacement from the storms.