- Associated Press - Saturday, November 22, 2014

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - The Oklahoma City school district has forfeited more than $3.5 million in federal funds for disadvantaged students by not spending the money in time.

State Department of Education officials said Friday that the district lost its unused Title I funds for the 2014 fiscal year because it didn’t have a waiver required to carry the surplus forward. Title I funds pay for professional development and supplemental materials needed to improve reading and math proficiency among low-income students.

School district officials say they had problems meeting the Education Department’s budget review deadline, The Oklahoman reported Saturday (https://bit.ly/1BYgy0X ).

Districts are allowed a waiver once every three fiscal years that allows them to carry over more than 15 percent of unused Title I funds, said Kay Townsend, a financial analyst at the Education Department.

Oklahoma City Public Schools, she said, last received a waiver in 2013, so the district wasn’t eligible for one this year.

Scott Randall, the district’s chief financial officer, said school board members acted in the district’s best interest by rejecting professional development contracts and other projects that did not result in “substantial growth” in student achievement.

“The Oklahoma City Public School District has an experienced staff who is aware of the restrictions and ways to use federal funds,” Randall said in a news release.

Board member Bob Hammack said the panel acted responsibly by not rubber-stamping programs and services that proved unsuccessful.

“As a taxpayer, I question the expenditure of tax dollars on any program, education or otherwise, that fails to show that the money was wisely invested,” Hammack said. “If you can show results, we will approve the expenditure.”

Tricia Pemberton, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said if a school district decides not to invest in a program that doesn’t prove to be effective, it could always choose a different way to spend the money.

“There’s not just one way to spend those funds,” Pemberton said. “We hear from districts often about the need for more funding. It’s up to them to decide what programs and materials best meet their needs with the funds they have available.”

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Information from: The Oklahoman, https://www.newsok.com


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