Student Body Activity In Delaware Schools A Hotbed For Fraud & Abuse! Why Is $118,126.88 Such An Important Number?

The Delaware accounting system is a train wreck of epic proportions.  I found 100% proof funds were switched around that benefit certain schools.  We have one charter school that can’t even follow proper accounting procedures and another charter school that seems to think Student Body Activities are their personal playground.

FY2016StudentBodyActivityDistrictCharters

For something like this chart, I would expect to see school districts firmly in the lead, but we don’t see that at all.  Cape Henlopen is a bit of an oddity when it comes to Delaware school districts.  They get a lot of money from school taxes and the residents in those areas don’t seem to mind paying them.  But Newark Charter School, with $445,000 in student body activities?  That is an excessively high amount.  For a charter school with a student population of less than 14% of the neighboring Christina School District, they spend 17 times more on activities for students than Christina.  Four districts and one charter don’t even have anything coded as “Student Body Activity” with the state: Caesar Rodney, Colonial, Delmar, Sussex Tech, and Sussex Academy.  Do they not have any student body activities or do they just put it somewhere else in the Rubik’s Cube called the Delaware Financial System (DFS)?

So how does this even work?  Are districts and charters paying out for field trips and fun activities and then reimbursing those costs as revenue generated from parents paying for them?  Are these schools paying for them without collecting any money from students?  Or is it a combination of both?

Do these activities affect the bottom line for the per student costs for each district and charter school?

FY2016StudentBodyActivityPerStudent

Rocketing to number one with $108,000 in student body activity costs based on their number of students is Delaware Academy of Public Safety & Security (DAPSS).  That sure is a lot of field trips!  We know they bought a fire truck for their students last winter, but those funds were generated from a collection by students.  So what accounts for such a high amount based on their student population?  I went on Delaware Online Checkbook and found that DAPPS is coding all their student transportation costs under student body activity.  So that throws their numbers way off!  We can clearly see the transportation costs as part of this category, with an amount totaling $84,236.  Had they coded this correctly, under student transportation, their costs for student body activity would have been a little over $23,000.

For Newark Charter School’s student body activity expenses on Delaware Online Checkbook, there is no explanation for their very high amounts.  While we do see transportation costs, they are not as high as DAPSS.  They appear to be transportation costs associated with field trips.  What is even more bizarre are the many payments going to certain individuals.  As if they are parents or teachers.  We see amounts going out to American Airlines for 26 purchases of what I assume to be airline tickets at $818 each and one for $875 totaling over $21,000 on 2/5/16 which were bought with the state procurement card on 1/15/16.  I reviewed NCS board minutes and found no mention of any big field trips for students taking place that would warrant such high airline ticket prices.  The state’s accounting manual is explicit that no state employee can purchase first class airline tickets.  So where was this trip to that cost $818 for each ticket?

Cape Henlopen has an obscene amount of p-card activity associated with student body activities under student body activity.  Like Newark Charter School, I see a lot of names associated with these charges.

Where this gets incredibly odd is when I went to look at examples of student body activity for different school districts and charters.  A Delaware citizen submitted a FOIA request to the state and received the FOIA in early July.  All of this citizen’s information was run by the Department of Finance on 7/2/16 for every single district and charter school’s expenses for Fiscal Year 2016.  June 30th was the end of the fiscal year.  All the charts and graphs I have made to date have been based on those figures.  But upon review, amounts are changing in the state accounting system.  The total expenditures for each district and charter are the same, but funds are moving around in the coding system.  As an example, Odyssey Charter School showed over $35,000 in student body activity costs.  But when I look now on Delaware Online Checkbook, the amount is over $153,000.  This trend occurred with many districts and charters, some for nominal amounts and some for rather considerable amounts.  And this is just under student body activity expenses.

In looking at Odyssey, it became clear something was up, so I was able to actually find the exact amount that was shifted over to student body activity.

odysseystudbodyactivity

In the above picture, we clearly see Odyssey Charter School, as of 21:06:44 on 07/02/16 had a total amount for FY2016 in Student Body Activity in the amount of $35,831.91.

odysseystudbodyactivitydeonlinechkbook

In the above snapshot, taken from Delaware Online Checkbook today about ten minutes ago, we clearly see an amount showing $153,958.79.  The difference between the two is $118,126.88.  That is a rather steep increase for student body activities!  In looking at their expenses for student body activity for Odyssey, I found two rather large amounts going to First Student Inc.  This is the bus company Odyssey uses.  As seen in the below picture, the two charges were for $69,486.40 and $48,640.48.  If you add those up, you get $118,126.88.  Now why would those funds be shifted from some other category to student body activity?

OdysseyFirstStateIncBusPmtsFY2016

The two payments to First Student Inc. are listed in the below picture.

odysseyfirststateincpmts$118k

So if $118,126.88 was shifted to Student Body Activity, where did the funds come from?  If Odyssey’s total expenditures didn’t change, what happened to the money?  In the FOIA from 7/2/16, it clearly shows Odyssey’s Fleet Rental costs at $612,546.34.

OdysseyFleetRental

Now watch what happens when I go on Delaware Online Checkbook to find out the current Fleet Rental amount for Odyssey Charter School…

OdysseyFY2016FleetRentalDEOnlineChkbook

Wait, it went down from $612,546.34 to $494,419.46.  That is a difference of $118,126.88

There is one thing charter schools get that traditional school districts don’t get.  Some call it the transportation slush fund.  Every year, in the epilogue to the state budget, there is a stipulation that allows charter schools to keep any difference between their budgeted amount for transportation and what they actually spend.  For Odyssey, this is listed as “Transportation” in their budget.  These costs go up each year.  But how much did charter schools get to keep from these surplus funds.  Surely it wasn’t that much.  In the below pictures from FY2014 and FY2015, we see how much charters get back from this slush fund.

OdysseyFY2014TransportationFunds

FY2015BusContracts

Odyssey has clearly benefitted from this arrangement with legislators that has continued for the past seven years in the epilogue of the state budget.  I sincerely hope charters aren’t hiding any funds so they can actually get more from the Delaware Charter School Transportation Slush Fund then they already are!

What I am more curious about with these coding changes are 1) Why are they happening, 2) Who is making the changes, and 3) Are both the districts or charters and the state aware of these changes if only one of them are making the changes?  Something to keep in mind is this simple fact: this is only for Student Body Activity.  There are hundreds of codes in the Delaware Financial System.  This is just what I could find for our schools in one code.

FY2016CodingChangesStudentBodyActivity

In the picture above, this is based on rounded off figures to the nearest dollar which is why the Odyssey number doesn’t match up with the $118,126.88 I mentioned a few times.  I have not been able to look at the other schools to see where the money is going to.  Odyssey was easy because of the high amounts involved.  While some of these amounts are small, what other shifts are going on?  Why are they going on for other areas if they are?  We know districts and charters code things incorrectly but who monitors that?  Does anyone?  And how much does all this shifting of taxpayer dollars affect funding for the next fiscal year?

I would strongly recommend each district or charter school Chief Operating Officer or Business Manager proactively gets in touch with me and voluntarily lets me know of any changes being made to the Delaware Financial System, the justification for these changes, and how they are able to do it.  If they aren’t aware of these changes, they need to let me know that as well.  Because as I go through each of the different codes in the coming weeks, I will find more.  I’ve already done a cursory glance at different (and major) categories and found excessive sums of money shifting around.  If you don’t get in touch with me, don’t get upset when I blast the lack of transparency from your school or district in each article.  We know this is happening.  So the choice is simple: be held accountable or be honest.  If there is funny business, you know I will expose it and call you out on it.  And each time, I am submitting requests to the State Auditor’s office for each and every category.  So you can ignore me all you want, but know that someone else will be knocking on your door.  And if the State Auditor’s office ignores this, it is time to take steps at a Federal level.  None of you who are manipulating funds will be allowed to do so anymore.  If the Auditor won’t hold you accountable, I will.  And I will make so much noise you won’t be able to hear above the outcries of the citizens in your district or charter school.  This begins now.  I don’t want to hear any crap about “I didn’t know” or “no one ever told me”.  You are all subject to the rules of this state.  Your excuses are exactly that: an excuse.  If you aren’t doing anything wrong, you won’t have anything to worry about.  But someone has to shake all this up and see what settles at the bottom.

I sincerely hope I’m not spoiling anyone’s party and ruining a chance to get some extra money for themselves.  The party’s over.  Deal with it.

 

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Providence Creek Academy State Audit Inspection Released: Rehab Costs, Las Vegas Trip, & P-Card Abuses

The Delaware Auditor of Accounts just released an inspection report on Providence Creek Academy showing many violations in procurement card spending and very questionable payroll expenses.  The office was tipped off over a year ago, around the same time as Family Foundations Academy, about alleged financial improprieties at the school, as well as the Delaware Department of Education.  Abuses revolved around personal purchases through the State of Delaware p-card, payroll expenses that were not justified, and even a conference in Las Vegas in the Summer of 2014 that four employees of the school attended (as did representatives from Academy of Dover and Family Foundations Academy).  The school’s auditor from 2012 to 2014 found none of this in their annual audits of the school.

While the abuses were not in the scope of Academy of Dover or Family Foundations Academy, they are still illegal and against the law.  Please support State Rep. Kim Williams House Bill 186 to help prevent these abuses from being missed by the charter school auditors and to bring transparency to light before these investigative inspections even have to occur.  Senator David Sokola’s Senate Bill 171 does nothing to stop these events from happening.

Delaware Quarterly District, Charter & DOE Expense & P-Card Spending

We are already a quarter of the way into Fiscal Year 2016.  I went through Delaware Online Checkbook and the Delaware Online Credit Card Transactions and made lists of which districts and charters spend the most.  Since the procurement card (also known as P-Card) is also a part of the total spending, I made two different lists.  As well, I put in all the major education reform companies the DOE shells funds out to, along with our state universities and colleges.  One thing to keep in mind is that P-Card spending is not an admission of guilt to financial abuse.  Many districts and charters use them for easier use of spending.  While some charters have been under the gun in the past couple years over this kind of abuse, it is not a general practice.

Total 1st Quarter Spending for FY2016
School Districts:
Christina $65,949,468
Red Clay $64,359,994
Brandywine $38,941,201
Indian River $34,451,340
Colonial $33,581,753
Appoquinimink $27,235,242
Capital $26,920,056
Caesar Rodney $25,365,753
Cape Henlopen $24,462,771
New Castle Co. Vo-Tech $20,459,061
Smyrna $18,781,120
Lake Forest $13,360,017
Seaford $12,380,371
Milford $11,056,539
Woodbridge $7,931,473
Laurel $7,513,240
Sussex Technical $7,401,832
Poly-tech $6,775,292
Delmar $3,303,696
Charters:
Newark Charter $7,513,240
Odyssey $3,820,528
MOT $2,714,233
Charter School of Wilmington $2,157,353
Thomas Edison $1,987,107
Providence Creek $1,890,432
Kuumba $1,769,796
Del. Military Academy $1,641,501
East Side $1,619,359
Family Foundations $1,615,134
Las Americas Aspiras $1,611,533
Sussex Academy $1,566,229
Del. Acad. Public Safety $1,065,013
Gateway Lab School $991,959
Campus Community $966,644
Prestige Academy $938,260
Academy of Dover $937,442
Positive Outcomes $741,137
First State Montessori $718,311
Early College High School $651,222
Academia Antonio Alonso $645,448
Delaware Met $518,340
Freire $492,507
Delaware College Prep $478,976
Great Oaks $430,763
First State Military $293,564
Delaware Design Lab $236,174
Delaware STEM Academy $829.15
Department of Education and sub-groups within DOE:
Department of Education $28,311,420
Special Needs Programs $7,414,664
Driver Training $303,940
Education Block Grants $239,953
Transportation $970,166
Advisory Council $70,974
DOE Education Expenses unless noted:
Achievement Network $69,000
Advanced Educaction Products $13,181
American Institutes For Research $2,048,269
Applied Technologies $107,480
Bloomboard $48,000
Delaware Community Foundation $93,381
Delaware Technical College (entire state spending) $11,363
Delaware State Educators Association $937,417
Delaware State University (entire state spending) $795,514
Derek J. Nino (Relay) $13,240
Double Line $95,515
Education Analytics $125,700
Education First Consulting $21,868
Education Pioneers $40,000
Empower Education Consulting $10,900
ESP Solutions Group $20,560
Essential Teaching & Learning $18,722
Evergreen Evaluation $11,700
Federal Education Group $87,725
Greatschools $15,000
Harris Mackessy Brennan $165,000
Hendy Avenue Consulting $43,900
iAssessment $49,999
Innovative Schools $618,441
Insight Public Sector $620,566
Jobs For Delaware Graduates $921,255
KSA Plus Communications $39,105
Marshall Consulting $15,500
Mass Insight $360,000
MH Miles Company CPA $66,800
Middlebury Interactive Language $26,146
Myriam Met $14,000
National Louis University $23,313
NCS Pearson $83,600
NCS Pearson (Districts and Charters) $465,428
New Teacher Center $29,962
Partnership to Advance Learning $26,000
Rand Corporation $156,136
Research For Action $100,000
Richard Colvin $18,200
Rodel Foundation $175,000
Ronald Berry $14,000
Schoology $264,588
Sungard Public Sector $948,245
Teach For America $35,143
Teaching Strategies $114,228
Tembo Inc. $85,000
The Center For Better Schools $28,000
The Hanover Research Council $33,000
The New Teacher Project $20,000
Transact Communications $14,750
University of Delaware (entire state spending) $41,111,614
University of Wisconsin-Madison $110,492
US Education Delivery Institute $20,793
Wesley College (entire state spending) $242,452

Total Procurement Card Spending 1st Quarter FY2016

School Districts:
Cape Henlopen $219,585
Appoquinimink $180,107
Red Clay $147,338
Sussex Technical $140,334
Poly-tech $81,610
Seaford $71,230
Colonial $63,021
Lake Forest $62,102
Delmar $58,599
Capital $45,762
Milford $28,486
Brandywine $25,431
Caesar Rodney $22,563
Smyrna $22,487
Woodbridge $20,612
Indian River $17,890
New Castle Co. Vo-Tech $17,427
Christina $16,715
Laurel $0.00
Charters:
MOT $88,221
Kuumba $48,971
East Side $48,349
Thomas Edison $37,808
Sussex Academy $30,137
Positive Outcomes $24,653
Odyssey $24,632
Las Americas Aspiras $20,924
Charter School of Wilmington $19,077
Delaware College Prep $12,972
Family Foundations $12,597
Del. Military Academy $12,428
Campus Community $9,942
*Academia Antonio Alonso $0.00
*Academy of Dover $0.00
*Del. Acad. Public Safety $0.00
Delaware Design Lab $0.00
*Delaware Met $0.00
*Delaware STEM Academy $0.00
*Early College High School $0.00
*First State Military $0.00
*First State Montessori $0.00
Freire $0.00
Gateway Lab School $0.00
*Great Oaks $0.00
Newark Charter $0.00
Prestige Academy $0.00
*Providence Creek $0.00
*indicates Innovative Schools handles bookkeeping for those schools
Department of Education and related organizations:
Department of Education $113,915
Education Block Grants $28,504
Special Needs Programs $24,449
Gov. Adv. Council $1,078
Advisory Council $879
Transportation $434