by John Stang August 1st, 2012
A state audit said Yakima County’s East Valley school district improperly collected $66,717 in state money for an Alternative Learning Experience (ALE) program serving home-based students via computers, by failing to exercise required oversight ensuring the students were adequately participating. In violation of funding conditions, the district didn’t document that many students in ALE were actually making adequate progress, or putting in required hours of work. In some cases, ALE students failed to make contact with district staff for at least 20 days, also in violation of state funding rules. Some of those students had left the program but were still being counted as participants. Overall, full due diligence monitoring wasn’t performed for half the students in the district’s ALE program in 2010, nor for 70 percent in 2011, according to the audit.
The district agreed with the findings, and will return the overpayments to the state. It also says it will develop internal controls to better monitor the vendors who handle the ALE program, and may itself take over operation of the program in the coming school year.
East Valley has roughly 320 staff members serving 2,900 students with annual budgets of roughly $25 million. The audit looked at the district’s Alternative Learning Experience program (ALE), which provides online education for students not best served in traditional settings.
State funding for this program is based on monthly student full-time equivalent. For example, if a student spent nine months on the ALE program, that would count as nine monthly FTEs. In 2010, the district reported 78 monthly FTEs in the program when it actually had 39 monthly FTEs. In 2011, the district reported 112 monthly FTEs, when it actually had 34 monthly FTEs. That translated to collecting $44,719 for the ALE program in 2010 – $22,334 too much. The district collected $62,971 for the ALE program in 2011 – $43,837 too much.
The audit recommended the district make sure to keep on hand the necessary documentation of monthly reviews of student performance; that for students found to not be making adequate progress, it track their actual hours of learning; and that it make sure to count as full-time students only those who’ve had direct contact with the staff in the lat 20 days.