Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Stealing Candy From Babies in California Schools

"They are literally taking food out of the mouths of kids," Richard Zeiger, chief deputy superintendent of public instruction. (From the Los Angeles Times)
Image from Flickr, by wenews
 Eight or more California school districts have misused millions of dollars in federal funding earmarked for schools’ free and reduced lunch programs, including Los Angeles Unified School District, according to a state Senate watchdog group. State officials believe the fraudulent use of the funds may be far more widespread, according to the Los Angeles Times. Other implicated school districts include Oxnard, San Diego, Santa Ana, San Francisco and Compton.

The districts have been ordered to repay more than $170 million by the California Department of Education. LAUSD must also pay back $158 million in unrelated misappropriated funds from the six years prior to 2012. In most cases, the misused funds were diverted from food to pay for personnel, utilities and other expenses, even though federal rules require the money to be used only for food services. According to the Times, many schools tried to cut costs by shortening lunch periods, slashing cafeteria staff and serving more processed foods—all of which hindered access and availability of the program for low income students.

Some of the misappropriations were reported by whistle blowers. The reason officials believe the problem may be more widespread is that there are only 60 state examiners who must monitor nearly 3,000 districts. They still haven’t completed all the inspections required since the 2001 rules went into effect and, when they do, they often just skim over the records.

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