North Carolina education officials failed to review more than $300 million in school stimulus plans ::

— The North Carolina Department of Public Instruction plans to hire more employees and contractors after an audit found the department was not investigating schools’ plans to spend federal pandemic stimulus funds.

The department lacked the staff to do so during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2021, and has since hired some workers.

As of March, Superintendent Catherine Truitt said the department also hoped to fill remaining vacancies and hire auditing firms so DPI’s fiscal oversight employees could focus only on their normal duties. The department has also approved other monitoring plans and tools to guide the work of fiscal monitoring employees.

“The Department agrees that it was unable to complete the full scope of the initial fiscal monitoring plan by June 30, 2021,” Truitt wrote to State Auditor Beth A. Wood on March 24. “This is due to a lack of staff resources, which is a challenge that is not unique to DPI, as a result of the global COVID pandemic.”

The department struggled, in part, because billions of stimulus dollars came through the department, which at the time had the same number of employees as it normally does. Federal funding for North Carolina schools typically totals only about $1 billion in any given year.

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