The Pulse

Senator grills DPI chief June Atkinson over GOP allegations of misusing funds

By: - February 2, 2016 11:41 am
N.C. Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Franklin, Wake
N.C. Sen. Chad Barefoot, R-Franklin, Wake

One day after the state Senate leader accused North Carolina’s top education administrators of misusing funds budgeted for reading programs, N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction June Atkinson responded to an aggressive line of questioning about the controversy.

Atkinson was discussing the federal government’s update of No Child Left Behind in the legislature’s Joint Legislative Education Oversight Committee Tuesday when Sen. Chad Barefoot, a Wake County Republican, began grilling Atkinson over the allegations.

WRAL reported Monday that Senate President Phil Berger, R-Guilford, Rockingham, indicated in a letter that $3.8 million in funding intended for literacy programs had been diverted during “secret meetings” in order to mitigate budget cuts at the department. Although he did not offer proof, Berger accused DPI leaders and the State Board of Education of diverting the money during a closed session, which would violate the state’s open meetings law.

“I just want some assurance,” said Barefoot.

Atkinson denied those claims. “Those dollars go to our schools to help improve reading,” said Atkinson. “…Again, I give you my assurance.”

Atkinson said a portion of the $3.8 million referenced by Berger and Barefoot will be used to purchase equipment for the reading program, but no funds will be used to fill operational holes at DPI.

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Billy Ball

Billy Ball, worked at NC Policy Watch from 2016 to 2020 — first as an education reporter and later as managing editor.