Audit: End of charter reimbursements hurting school districts

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State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale today highlighted the financial difficulties of the Duquesne and Sto-Rox school districts as he released their performance audits.

In a news release, he said, "Our most recent audits show that Duquesne City School District is over the cliff financially; and the Sto-Rox School District is teetering on the edge."

He said one challenge for both districts was the state's discontinuation in 2011-12 of its partial reimbursement for charter school payments. That cost each of the two districts hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"Taking away this much funding from financially troubled school districts, without correcting the flawed charter school funding formula and providing some 'best practice' solutions for moving forward is not in the best interest of our students or our commonwealth's future," Mr. DePasquale said.

Noting his office has released more than 150 school district audits in his first nine months, Mr. DePasquale said, "One thing we see over and over again, especially in districts with limited tax base, is that the elimination of the charter school reimbursement funding in 2011 was devastating."

In the Duquesne audit, the district was found in compliance except for having inadequate documentation to support state-paid tuition for orphans and children placed in private homes, a problem found in the previous three audits. The audit said that Duquesne was unable to verify the accuracy of state-paid tuition of $191,942 in 2008-09 and $54,485 in 2009-10.

The audit also noted two observations, one about Duquesne continuing to be in a "financially declining position" and the other saying the district "lacks sufficient control over its student data." Auditors noted missing paperwork, including a lack of permanent record folders on file for six students.

In the Sto-Rox audit, the district was found in compliance except that the district did not have certain school bus drivers' qualifications on file for the third consecutive audit.

The audit found that the federal criminal history records were missing for three bus drivers in 2011-12. At the auditor's request, the district later provided documentation for the three. Of the three, one had fingerprints that were rejected and could not be processed by the FBI, another had been charged with harassment and the third had been charged with disorderly conduct.

The audit noted these offenses would not disqualify a driver for employment under state law.

The audit also made the observation that Sto-Rox is "potentially in a financially declining position." The auditor recommended the district monitor key financial indicators.

education - breaking - neigh_west - neigh_east

Education writer Eleanor Chute: echute@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1955.


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