Special to Iredell Free News
RALEIGH — Gov. Roy Cooper on Wednesday directed $95.6 million in new funding to help support K-12 and postsecondary students most impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic who can benefit from support during the upcoming school year.
The funding is North Carolina’s share of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Fund, a part of the federal CARES Act. The GEER funds are intended to provide emergency support to school districts, postsecondary institutions, or other education-related entities for addressing the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Learning during a pandemic is an unprecedented challenge for students and staff, whether in the classroom or remotely. This funding should help protect the physical and mental health at schools, and help bridge the gap for students with unique learning needs,” Cooper said.
The governor is directing the following investments to support K-12 students across North Carolina:
♦ $40 million to the State Board of Education and the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to hire more school nurses, counselors, social workers, and psychologists in our public schools.
♦ $20 million to the State Board of Education and DPI to support the academic needs of at-risk students and students with disabilities through additional in-school supports, such as after-school programming, tutoring, or hiring more teachers or teacher assistants.
The investments in K-12 education will help students continue learning despite the pandemic and also align closely with efforts to help North Carolina meet its constitutional obligation to provide all students with access to a sound, basic education and resolve the Leandro case. In 2017, Cooper helped convene the parties in the long-running Leandro case to come to a specific resolution that will benefit all North Carolina students.
In addition to funds for K-12 schools, the governor is also directing the following investments to support students in postsecondary institutions across North Carolina:
♦ $15 million to the NC Community College System to provide tuition assistance to students enrolled in short-term workforce training programs leading to a state or industry-recognized credential in a high-demand field.
♦ $6 million to the UNC System for institutions to provide emergency assistance to North Carolina students whose ability to complete their degree has been impacted by the pandemic.
♦ $4 million to the State Education Assistance Authority for independent colleges and universities to provide emergency assistance to North Carolina students whose ability to complete their degree has been impacted by the pandemic.
♦ $566,000 to the UNC System for the NC School of Science and Mathematics and the UNC School of the Arts, each of which received limited to no federal higher education funding from the CARES Act because of the size of their high school student populations.
“To boost our economic recovery from this pandemic, we need to make sure that students are able to complete their postsecondary degrees or credentials,” Cooper said. “This funding will help current students stay on track towards completing their degrees and will help more North Carolinians get access to the workforce training they need to be job ready.”
The remaining $10 million will be held in reserve to address additional K-12 and postsecondary needs that may arise later this year or next year. The governor has until May 2021 to allocate the funds. Recipients have until September 30, 2022, to spend the funds.