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Education Reporter

Mi$$pending Charges Mount
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Mismanagement and/or corruption by administrators or teachers plague some public school systems, as evidenced by the following recent examples:
  • Roslyn High, a high-achieving school in an affluent Long Island, NY community, saw the arrest of a former administrator and a voter revolt last year following revelations that school funds were allegedly used to buy luxury homes, cars, jewelry, artwork and other personal items for administrators. A state audit recently found at least $11.2 million in illegal diversions over eight years, making the case the most pervasive such school fraud in the country, according to the National School Boards Association. Three employees have been indicted for grand larceny and up to 26 other people benefited from the diversions. (New York Times, 3-3-05) Incensed voters responded by overwhelmingly rejecting a district spending plan last May.

  • Atlanta public schools diverted at least $5 million in federal E-rate grants intended to benefit poor schoolchildren, using the money for unauthorized consulting fees, cellphone bills, plasma TV monitors, temporary worker wages and air conditioners between 2000 and 2002. (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 12-19-04)

  • Chicago schools using E-rate funds became so bogged down in mismanagement, politically tainted contracts and waste that they are two years behind in wiring classrooms and forfeited more than $50 million earmarked for projects there. (Chicago Tribune, 9-12-04) The E-rate program was established by the Clinton administration to fund internet connections for schools, using revenues from a tax on phone bills. The program has been hit with so many allegations of waste, fraud and abuse that the Federal Communications Commission ordered a halt in funding for several months last year pending adoption of new accounting procedures. (See Education Reporter, Sept. 2004 for other examples of E-rate abuses.)

  • Three sisters and another teacher were paid tens of thousands of dollars by Chicago public schools to create math instruction manuals that were later deemed useless because they contained so many errors. An internal investigation found that the leader in the two-year project earned $164,421 in 2001 alone, including $73,549 in overtime pay. She hired two of her sisters to assist her, one of whom had failed the teacher's certification process at least seven times. Another teacher hired to help earned $52,117 in 2001, including $63,036 for overtime. Even the overtime vouchers were riddled with math errors, the report concluded. (Chicago Tribune, 1-18-04)

  • A Richmond, CA adult literacy program was improperly drained of $221,447 in restricted state funds in order to pay high salaries of administrative employees, who then laid off nearly all the literacy teachers for lack of money. The administrators also violated the city anti-nepotism policy. (Contra Costa Times, 12-16-03)

  • A sophomore at Watchung Hills Regional High School, a "Blue Ribbon school of excellence" in New Jersey, reported that instead of spending money on desperately needed books and functioning bathrooms, the superintendent spent a fortune on TVs for every classroom, eight TVs/VCRs/DVD players for each lunchroom, artificial turf for the football field, "SMART Boards" to display computer images in class, and a 14-day junket to China. (Echoes-Sentinel, 11-17-04)

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