A federal audit has faulted the Illinois state board of education for failing to adequately monitor how two school districts used part of their money from the Title I program, which provides aid to schools with the highest concentrations of low-income families.
The audit by the U.S. Department of Education’s office of inspector general , released this month, recommends that the state pay back at least $16.8 million in federal funds that were allocated to the 415,000-student Chicago public school system, where auditors found the biggest problems. In a written response to the audit, the state and the Chicago school district argue against repaying the money, and they are waiting for an official determination from the Education Department on that argument.
Federal auditors looked at the use of the “comparability-of-services requirement” during the 2005-06 program year in three test school districts. That requirement is meant to ensure that districts use funds to provide services in Title I schools that are comparable to services already available in non-Title I schools.
The auditors found problems in Chicago and in the 3,700-student Troy Community Consolidated School District, but did not cite any problems with the third test district, the 28,000-student Rockford school system.
In Chicago, they found that the district included vacant teaching positions in seeking to ensure that its Title I schools had the same level of staffing and services as its non-Title I schools.
In the written response, state Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch agreed that the state hadn’t adequately monitored the Chicago district.
However, in an interview last week, Matt Vanover, a spokesman for the Illinois state board, defended the state agency’s monitoring of Title I funds and, where Chicago was concerned, blamed the school district for the problems. A spokesman for the Chicago district did not respond to a request for comment.
A version of this article appeared in the June 20, 2007 edition of Education Week as Federal Audit Finds Illinois Title I Faults