At the June 2 School Board meeting school officials were asked about the audit. Superintendent Ken Hinton said the "information" going around is "incorrect," but he never gave any details about what is incorrect or said how much the district must pay back and otherwise account for from its own funds. He said the district does not get $10 million from Title I funds but did not say what it does receive.
Here's the link to the District 150 budget. Note page 9 of the budget, line item 184. This year the Title I receipts are $10.1 million. (To reach the budget, go to 'Board of Education' then click on the budget link.)
There's another interesting statement on this budget. It states since the budget is balanced, no "deficit reduction plan is required." So the Title I situation last year helped balance this year's budget! Until the auditors came in.
Administrator Mary Ann Randle said auditors have been "tightening" the allowable expenses under Title I. "Some of these things put us in a precarious position," she said.
An audit of federal Title I grants sent to the district in 2006-07 found $995,378 in questionable expenditures for items such as cell phones, parties and even excessive pay to administrators and teachers not linked to the poverty programs covered by Title I.The district has agreed to refund some of the money directly. Insiders say it must change its budgeting to take the other questionable funds out of its other tax funds, leaving a shortfall in these funds, apparently between $645,000 to $810,000, figures mentioned by district administrators as the savings from the cutbacks.
That's the apparent link to the cutbacks.
The 45-minute-per-day cutbacks would remedy the shortfall, but on the backs of the most vulnerable students in the primary grades.In an official response to the audit, district officials stated: “The District acknowledges that significant errors were made in posting expenditures to the correct account types and numbers,” and will correct the problems.
The huge document questions numerous expenses paid out by
District 150 from federal grant funds, including:
$40,600 in excessive administrative pay and benefits.
$107,345 in excessive pay for “community services.”
- Over $37,700 in “breakfasts,” “luncheons,” and even a course on “How to Supervise People” for Title One Director J.B. Culbertson.
Other items disallowed under the federal grants include
“basketball hoops,” a “smart phone” for Tim Ryon, principal at Tyng school, $1,180
to the “Peoria Ballet Co.” a snowblower, camera and candy from Target and
$5,000 in fans, listed as “janitorial supplies.”
Over $20,936 spent on “air conditioners” was questioned by the auditors.
But the biggest item
disallowed was $703,633 for teacher pay and benefits, presumably because they
were not teaching in Title I programs."There were numerous inconsistencies in the grant staff payroll records" auditors stated, resulting in "overstatement of salaries and benefits."
The district also did not have “highly qualified teachers” in some schools as required by federal rules.
According to the Federal auditors, the district had 13 teachers providing instruction that were not highly qualified - a violation of the provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act.
Further requirements the district must meet under the Act include submitting a plan to the Regional Office of Education demonstrating the numbers of non-highly qualified teachers, and notifying parents if a non-highly qualified teacher was providing instruction to their children. According to the audit, the district was not in compliance with either of these provisions.
The auditors were blunt about District 150’s situation. “The
District did not maintain a comprehensive accounting system” they wrote, a
conclusion that District officials denied, saying “it does have the capability
of generating necessary reports.”
District officials blamed communication problems for the bad audit.
language barrier or communication problem between staff and audit personnel”
caused problems with the audit, the District stated in its official response. It was able to negotiate down some of the expenses that it must account for from other funds or repay.
A former district insider who has studied the report
concluded that federal funds were being used to prop up the educational fund
making it appear to not have a deficit, and the District got caught.
Though auditors usually find problems, “this is a high number,” another insider, now retired, said.
The audit, released in Nov. 2007 for the previous school year, along with the district’s response, is a public record on file with the district, the Regional Superintendent’s Office and the Illinois State Board of Education.
A copy of the audit, released under the Freedom of Information Act on Friday, May 30, came too late in the day for interviews with district officials.
Opponents of the cutbacks may question board members at the June 2 meeting about the audit and its apparent relationship to the cutbacks.
They seek a reversal of the cutback plan, but it's not on the meeting agenda.
They plan picketing before the meeting and are gathering signatures on petitions opposing the cutbacks.
-- Elaine HopkinsUpdate: Title I funds are federal grant funds to schools with low income students, to improve student achievement. They are the funding behind the No Child Left Behind Act, which schools must meet if they take the money. Their use is restricted by federal law. They are allocated to schools based on their percentage of poverty-level students.
Below are some web links on Title 1.