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Duval schools flagged for misapplying $2.7M

Title I federal funds meant as supplement replaced state dollars

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Duval County School District has been flagged by the state for misapplying $2.7 million of federal grant money in Title I schools.

Now, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference is stepping in to make sure the district takes action and it doesn't happen again.

The federal government gives extra money, known as Title I funds, to Title I schools, which are schools with high numbers of students from low-income families. It does so to provide those schools with more resources to make sure those students can meet state standards.

The money is supposed to supplement state dollars, not replace it in those schools.

A state audit found that wasn't the case at 17 Duval County schools.

Last October, Duval County Public Schools Superintendent Ed Pratt-Dannals got a letter from the Florida Department of Education saying an audit of the district found it violated the No Child Left Behind Act.

It said the review found "17 schools which expended Title I resources were not appropriately funded with state and local dollars."

The SCLC wants answers.

"Our concern is still the same as it relates to whether the funds were actually put in the schools properly, whether the funds were properly used in the schools, and also as it relates to that, how that has impacted the students in the Title I schools," SCLC president R.L. Gundy said.

The state audit found the $2.7 million in Title I funds were used instead of state and local funds at the 17 schools, when that money is supposed to be in addition to state funds.

The district said the money did go to Title I schools and said it was used to hire teachers.

"The money was used for instruction. So it was additional instruction for those students in the Title I schools, correct," school district spokeswoman Jill Johnson said.

The school district said this was an administrative oversight, not an intentional move to keep these schools from getting their extra funds.

"So where we erred was utilizing that money for those instead of additional supplemental things for those students, whether it be coaches or additional guidance media," Johnson said.

"Whether you used misused, whether you use misappropriated, if you didn't spend it where you're supposed to spend it, that means it was misused," Gundy said.

The SCLC is concerned students at those 17 Title I schools were at a disadvantage because the schools were shorted extra spending money, so to speak, from the federal government.

The state audit has the district taking $2.7 million from its general operating fund to repay the Title I program.