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Senate leader decries DPI reorganization

The News & Observer and WRAL are reporting that Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger, R-Rockingham, is upset about state education leaders’ reorganization plans.

EdNC broke the news last month that State Superintendent June Atkinson and State Board of Education Chair Bill Cobey were using money earmarked for the Excellent Public Schools Act to preserve jobs they had to trim under a General Assembly-mandated 5 percent cut to the state Department of Public Instruction budget.

At the time, Atkinson said the employees whose jobs were saved would be handling aspects of the Act which relate to their positions, and that some of them had already been taking on those responsibilities.

Read to Achieve is part of the Excellent Public Schools Act. In a letter sent to Atkinson and Cobey Monday, Berger said the additional money coming from the legislature to DPI for the Act was meant to be used on tutors, according to the News & Observer. The article reported that he said DPI was using the money instead for its “bloated bureaucracy,” and WRAL reported that he said DPI’s use of the funds was a “violation of the budget’s requirement for a reduction in the department’s operating costs,”

Atkinson said that Berger had made a mistake and that the State Board had already approved money for tutors, the News & Observer reported. The newspaper also stated that Berger said the State Board may have violated the state’s Open Meetings Law by discussing the budget issue in closed session. Atkinson disagreed with the assertion, according to the article.

WRAL reported that Berger wants a response from Atkinson on this issue by week’s end.

The State Board is set to discuss spending on summer reading camps — part of Read to Achieve — at this week’s meeting.

Read our original coverage of DPI’s reorganization here.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.