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Feds To Audit Grants To Embattled St. Joseph School District

Sam Zeff

It's been relatively quiet recently in the scandal plagued St. Joseph School District. But that changed Thursday when the district got word from the state that many of its federal grants will be audited.

The district says it received the notice from the Department of Elementary and Secondary (DESE).

"Your district has been identified due to possible fiscal compliance issues with federal grants," according to the letter from DESE sent to Superintendent Robert Newhart.

“We believe this audit request stems from the current Federal Bureau of Investigation of the St.
Joseph School District,” Newhart said in a statement. The district was served with a sixth federal grand jury subpoena about two weeks ago. The FBI has been investigating the district for almost two years.

DESE says the audit was requested by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG has shown some interest in mismanagement problems in the district but this is the first action taken by the federal department.

Ten of 18 federal grant programs will get additional scrutiny from DESE auditors. They include grants for homeless education, special education, career and technical education and Title I programs for disadvantaged students.

As a result the district will be placed on a cash management plan. “What this means is that the district will have to provide additional supporting documents when requesting funds for payment in Federal Programs...until further notice by DESE," according to the Newhart statement.

This is the second time in about a year St. Joseph schools have run afoul of DESE. Last December the state said the district improperly charged DESE for more than two dozen summer school classes. As a result, the department withheld $2 million in state aid.

You deserve to know what your taxpayer dollars are paying for and what public officials are doing on your behalf – I’ll work to report on irresponsible government spending in the Kansas City area and shed light on controversies that slow government down. And when you hear my voice in the morning, you know you’re getting everything you need to start your day. Email me at sam@kcur.org, find me on Twitter @samzeff or call me at 816-235-5004.
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