If you’ve been following my series on Superintendent Atkinson being questioned about funds for the Excellent Public Schools Act being diverted into shifting personnel around, well, we have an update.
— A.P. Dillon – LL1885 (@LadyLiberty1885) February 5, 2016
So far, here’s the timeline:
At the State Board of education meeting in January, Dr. Atkinson quietly unloads a bombshell that she’s moving funds from the Excellent Public Schools act to counter budget cuts ordered for DPI by the legislature. I give credit to Alex Grandos of EducationNC for picking up on this.
The legislature picks up on this maneuver and calls Atkinson out. Senator Phil Berger is particularly mad, decried the apparent reorganization and fires off a letter to the Office of State Budget Management (OSBM).
Atkinson says Senator Berger and the legislature are “misunderstanding” the situation and says she’s done nothing wrong. Chairman of the State Board of Ed, Bill Cobey, backs her up.
Atkinson is questioned again about the money shell game apparently being played at a NCGA Education oversight committee meeting. She again says she’s being ‘misunderstood’.
Last night, a letter from OSBM reveals that Atkinson was indeed moving money from the Excellent Public Schools act for “DPI operations” purposes. Excerpt from the letter:
“OSBM’s review of DPI’s January 8 proposal revealed that DPI would have redirected more than $2 million of Excellent Public Schools Act funds to refinance existing DPI operations, and achieved operational savings of less than $500,000.”
In fact, from this letter, it looks like the bulk of the funds were being moved. Remember, The Excellent Public Schools Act’s fund total is around $3.7 million.
At yesterday’s meeting, Chairman of the State Board of Education attempted some blamestorming, pointing the finger… back at himself and the State Board of Ed? Once again, Alex Granados is on top of this story; emphasis added is mine:
The State Board of Education tried to end the controversy over the Department of Public Instruction reorganization yesterday, but a letter from state budget officials shows it’s not over yet.
A lengthy discussion over the cuts took place between members at the State Board of Education Thursday.
Board Vice Chair A.L. Collins had requested during the Wednesday portion of the meeting that the Board take the subject up, and after a break Thursday, they did so. Chair Bill Cobey started the discussion by telling the State Board that they were the deciders when it came to what got cut from the DPI budget.
“You’re the final word,” he said. “We’re not the final word.”
As we reported in January, Superintendent June Atkinson and Cobey were granted the power by the Board to determine how to dole out the $2.5 million in cuts mandated by the General Assembly last session. In January, they decided to use some of the $3.8 million in extra funds granted to DPI by the General Assembly for the Excellent Public Schools Act to save some personnel who may have potentially faced the axe.
Rule of thumb I’ve adopted after years of watching Dr. Atkinson — Nothing is ever her or DPI’s fault. Nothing. It is always the NCGA or the State Board.
Go read the whole thing. At the end of the article, the scope of DPI’s staffing bloat and how much the federal government controls DPI staff is revealed:
In the course of the discussion, it was revealed that of about 1,126 total positions in DPI, 88 state-funded ones are vacant. It was also revealed that, at the moment, about 42 percent of the positions in DPI are federally-funded. If federally-funded positions were to constitute the majority of DPI positions, the federal government could potentially have more of a say in the operations of DPI.
There you have it. Dr. Atkinson has spent the better part of the last month redefining the word “misunderstanding”. For her, it apparently means her own personal interpretation of the ‘intent‘ Excellent Public Schools Act is right and those who wrote it are all wrong?
What other pieces of legislation has Dr. Atkinson ‘interpreted’ and claimed a “misunderstanding” over? Maybe the legislature is just “bearing false witness“.
Whatever her definition of “misunderstanding” is, perhaps it’s time the state auditor took a look at DPI’s budget as it relates to the shifting of staff under Dr. Atkinson’s tenure.