The Pulse

NC grant program for schools was so popular, the money ran out in less than a week

By: - May 20, 2022 8:00 am

School districts snapped up the small grants available purchase feminine hygiene products for students with funding from the state budget, but there wasn’t enough money to go around.

Sixty-six school districts and charter schools received grants of $500 to $5,000 to purchase feminine hygiene products for students, according to a report to the legislature from the state Department of Public Instruction. DPI distributed the money on a first-come, first-served basis, as the legislature directed.  The $250,000 the legislature appropriated was claimed in less than a week, and fewer than half of the 134 applications were funded. The legislature made the money available only this year.

In their requests, the school districts wrote of low-income students who missed school, had to use wadded-up toilet paper, or make embarrassing trips to the front office for supplies because their families could not afford them.

At some schools, employees use their own money to buy tampons or pads for students whose families cannot afford them. Other schools rely on a PTA or community donations.

“All grantees indicated a great need for student access to feminine hygiene products as they may not have access to them at home or their families may not have the financial means to purchase products themselves,” DPI’s report said.

“More than half of the grantees indicated that they either have Title I schools in their districts or that many of their students and families are living below the poverty line. For these students and families, feminine hygiene products are an expense they cannot afford, and therefore they have to rely on the school to provide these products. Many grantees also noted that an increase in the availability of hygiene products in school would help students stay in school when are menstruating and would alleviate student anxiety and embarrassment.”

With the realization that period poverty causes students to miss school, states have begun passing laws requiring public schools to provide menstrual hygiene products or providing school money to purchase them, Policy Watch has reported.

“As many grantees indicated, there is a direct link between student academic success and the provision of hygiene products in school,” DPI said in its report to legislators. “The grant program has helped to support districts and students by removing financial barriers to products and ensuring health and well-being is maintained so that students continue their academic growth.”

Fifteen states have laws providing menstrual hygiene products in schools, Stateline reported this month, citing information from the Alliance for Period Supplies.

The DPI report said school districts still ask about the grant program, with questions about when more money might be available.

State Sen. Natalie Murdock, a Durham Democrat, filed a budget bill last year asking for the money, and the grant made it into the final budget. Murdock said in an email this week that getting the money in the budget was a bipartisan effort, with GOP Sens. Deanna Ballard, an education budget committee chairwoman, and Kathy Harrington, a Senate budget chairwoman, championing it.

Ballard and Harrington could not be reached this week.

The DPI report shows the need to continue to fund the grants, Murdock said in the email.

“With so many schools across the state applying for the funding, it shows that there is a real need for these products in our schools,” she wrote.

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Lynn Bonner
Lynn Bonner

Investigative Reporter Lynn Bonner covers the state legislature and politics, as well as elections, the state budget, public and mental health, safety net programs and issues of racial equality.