K-12 DIGEST: Audit shows Massachusetts schools mishandled funds intended to support hurricane-displaced students

Miguel Martinez descended a ladder on his now roofless home after Hurricane Maria in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico on Sept. 30, 2017.

The Boston Globe reports on a new report detailing the mismanagement of millions invested into Massachusetts public school systems to support children from U.S. territories displaced by horrific hurricanes in 2017.

The report, published by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Inspector General, shows that the state failed to provide proper oversight or administration of districts’ funding and that millions may have to be returned to the feds for shortcomings in support or inaccurate counts of eligible students.

“Massachusetts did not ensure displaced student count data reported to the [US Education] Department were accurate and complete because it did not have adequate controls in place to prevent or detect inaccurate displaced student counts,” the audit said, noting the state took districts at their word when local officials attested the data were accurate.

The audit also took aim at the state education department for abandoning efforts to scrutinize expenditures after more than two years of delays, writing: “In August 2021, we were notified that Massachusetts decided not to monitor the Emergency Impact Aid program.”

Massachusetts received more than $15.5 million in emergency impact aid and is the third state to face audit questions in the last three years, following Texas and Florida, regarding programmatic oversight.

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