State Education Superintendent John White says private schools participating in the statewide voucher program will undergo annual audits to examine how the public money being funneled to them is being used.

Gannett’s Mike Hasten reports that the state Department of Education will not scrutinize private schools’ overall finances or whether the “books are balanced,” but DOE will be paying for audits to determine whether the public money is being spent on the public school students in attendance.

The scope of the audits planned voucher schools appears to be at least somewhat wider than independent audits done for the New Orleans voucher program that launched four years before Jindal successfully pushed for a statewide expansion. As IND Monthly reported in February, audits of the New Orleans voucher program tracked enrollment and billing for — at most — 10 percent of the roughly 1,800 students served by the New Orleans voucher program each year.  

That audit, prepared by accounting firm Provost, Salter, Harper and Alford, points out that seven private schools in the Crescent City were overpaid a combined $25,000 for the 2010-2011 school year, but “had we performed additional procedures, other matters might have come to our attention that would have been reported to you,” the audit report states.

According to the Gannett report, the audits will focus on five areas:
-Whether schools are using adequate accounting controls, spending the money on educational purposes and are not spending money “in a manner that is grossly irresponsible” or “for gross individual enrichment.”
-Whether tuition and fees charged to voucher students are “equal to what a student is paying or had private payments made for him.”
-Verification of payment.
-Whether a student meets income eligibility.
-Whether special education tuition meets standards set by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in Bulletin 133.
Although special needs tuition is addressed in the audit plans, it’s unclear how many of the 5,000 students in the voucher program are labeled as special needs students. DOE was unable to immediately provide those numbers when contacted by IND Monthly this morning. The story will be updated to include DOE’s special needs enrollment tally when we receive it.

Of the more than 1,600 public school students who participated in the New Orleans voucher program during the 2010-2011 school year, only four were considered special needs kids.

Read more here and here.

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