Friday, November 09, 2007

Stealing from students

Here's another scandal in Washington D.C.'s education establishment. The Washington Post investigates how some unknown amount of money has been stolen from school clubs' activities funds, often by the teachers or other school employees. Record keeping is a mess, required audits aren't being done, and money sometimes is just lying around schools.
District policy says the money should be spent on student activities such as field trips, homecoming and yearbooks.

But in school offices throughout the city, employees handle cash, checks and records so haphazardly that money easily disappears.

Officials who were investigating Ballou High School after a 2004 shooting there found more than $27,000 in cash and checks scattered around the building -- while the vault sat empty. On the floor under one desk, auditors found $3,200 in gate receipts from a football game the year before, records show.

In boxes stacked in a storage room at Coolidge High School, The Post found canceled checks mixed in with unopened bills from 2004. Disbursement forms showed that thousands of dollars were paid to school employees for food, trips and other expenses with only scant documentation.

In several instances, records indicate that money disappeared on its way from Coolidge to the bank. One deposit was more than $1,000 short.

When Lynn Kauffman was the librarian at Coolidge, she raised more than $14,000 and deposited the money into the student activity fund. When it came time to pay bills, more than one-third of the money couldn't be found. Kauffman lost $620 that she had advanced for books and supplies, expecting to be reimbursed.

"I never got the money," she said. "Why not? And where is the money?"

The current Coolidge principal, L. Nelson Burton, told auditors that prior school administrators had "severely mismanaged or misappropriated a significant amount of money" from the student activity fund.

Internal auditors for the school system have documented dozens of instances in which school employees have stolen or mismanaged student activity money. But until charges were filed in the Moten case last week, only one school official had been prosecuted in recent years.
Read the article for some more appalling examples of the carelessness that permeates the entire school system. Perhaps this is a problem elsewhere. Who knows what is going on at a school when students are raising big sums in cash? However, with the school bureaucracy in Washington, D.C. having engendered one scandal after another and more and more students fleeing the regular schools for charters, I suspect that the malfeasance in D.C.'s schools surpass most other school districts.

But this story should be a wake up call to every principal to make sure that students aren't being robbed of the funds that they raise for activities. What a terrible thing to think of teachers and school bureaucrats eying student fundraising as their own personal ATMs.