The Lakewood, New Jersey township's haredi-controlled school district could be forced to repay more than $6 million in improperly (and possibly illegally) gotten state and federal grants. The district allegedly cheated by inflating enrollment figures and in other ways to get government money it didn't qualify for. It also used government funds in ways it apparently cannot account for.
Haredi-Controlled School District May Have To To Return Millions Of Dollars Of Improperly Gained State And Federal Aid
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
The Lakewood, New Jersey township's haredi-controlled school district could be forced to repay more than $6 million in improperly (and possibly illegally) gotten state and federal grants, the APP reported.
The Lakewood school district also has a $5 million budget deficit independent of the disposition of those grants.
In two new reports issued by the New Jersey State Department of Education's Office of Fiscal Accountability, state investigators found the district’s enrollment figures were inflated. The report also found that incomplete records for the 2011-12 school year were provided for federal Title I spending, which is given to districts with a high number of children from low-income families.
District officials have 40 days to appeal and provide the proper documentation.
The district could be forced to return more than $3.9 million in federal Title I funding and $2.4 million to the state given the district based on its inflated enrollment figures.
"During the consolidating monitoring reporting, [state inspectors] found 50 different issues. Anywhere in the teens and low 20s, raises concerns. Fifty is way out of line, it raised a lot of questions,” Robert Cicchino, director of the New Jersey State Education Department’s Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance said.
Less than a month ago, the state appointed an outside fiscal monitor for the district.
According to the APP, these are some of the issues raised in the state’s new reports:
• The district could not provide a list of recipients or an explanation why 760 iPads were purchased with more than $468,000 in federal Title I funds.
• The report questioned of how Title I funds were spent in at least eight other instances – including the district’s failure to provide records about the payment of $1 million to the Tree of Knowledge, which provides instructional services to private school students, almost all from haredi yeshivas.
• The district appears to have inflated its enrollment which lead to an overpayment from the state to the district of $2.3 million.
• Millions of dollars paid by the district to an unnamed a nonpublic school contractor is under federal investigation.
That “nonpublic school contractor” may be Catapult Learning, which provides special-education services to the district.
Last year, the FBI subpoenaed district records for contracts with and other information regarding Catapult Learning and for information on and contracts with Ocean Health Initiatives.
Questions about the haredi-controlled district's spending were also raised by the APP in a 2012-13 investigation into the district. It found “questionable spending and false graduation reports that enabled the school system to receive more federal aid than it deserved,” the APP wrote.
When those inaccurate graduation rates were exposed, the Lakewood school district lost $4 million in federal aid.
Reverend Glenn Wilson, the founder of UNITE Lakewood (United Neighbors Improving Today's Equality), said the state audit of the district's Title I funds confirms what he has thought all alonghis organization has long claimed – Lakewood needs help.
"These are issues that we have been pointing to for years but our little voice would go nowhere. Lakewood needs help,” Wilson said.
Most Lakewood students attend private religious schools – almost all of which are haredi yeshivas and girls schools.
The issues detailed in the reports predate the current board and administration, although they still took place under a haredi-controlled administration and board and were apparently not rectified under the new administration.
[Hat Tips: The Nudnik, HeathenHassid.]