The Department of Education’s office of inspector general has found that the Learning Exchange, a nonprofit education organization based in Kansas City, Mo., misused money allocated to it under a grant to establish a Parental Information and Resource Center.
The organization’s grant, which was intended to help educate parents about their rights and options under the No Child Left Behind Act, went into effect Oct. 1, 2003, and was terminated on Feb. 2 of this year. David H. Westbrook, a spokesman for the Learning Exchange, said the grant was terminated voluntarily after the organization decided to narrow its mission and focus.
The Nov. 16 audit report found that the organization did not properly contract for services, incorrectly allocated employee-compensation payments, spent PIRC funds on unallowable activities, and did not provide enough documentation to explain its expenditures.
The report questioned a total of $436,665 in expenditures. It called for the Learning Center to return more than $164,000 and said it must provide documentation for another $271,722. For instance, the audit cited $650 used for chair massages at a school rally as an unallowable activity. Mr. Westbrook said the organization plans to appeal the audit before the department takes final action.
“We are aware that there were some documentation problems,” he said in a Nov. 20 interview. “We addressed those problems while the grant was in place.” He said the massages were a gimmick to draw parents to the Learning Center’s information booth at the school event. He said the way the audit referred to them “makes you think people were out having champagne and getting roses and massages” at taxpayer expense.
A version of this article appeared in the November 29, 2006 edition of Education Week