Jun 28, 2013

99 Percent of Schools Show No Violation

BATON ROUGE, La. - The Department of Education today released findings of an annual independent financial audit conducted by Postlethwaite & Netterville and Provost, Salter, Harper & Alford, LLC, of non-public schools participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program. This annual audit conducted by certified public accountants is required by state law and is similar to the process conducted once a year for district public schools and charter schools in Louisiana. To view similar public school audits click here. All but one school was found to be compliant with Bulletin 133. For minor findings that were noted, the auditors provided guidance for adjustments and reconciliations. To access the full audit of non-public schools participating in the scholarship program, click here and here.

"We appreciate the transparency and participation of schools throughout this audit. This is a rigorous process to ensure that all parties involved are following the guidelines set out by both the Legislature and BESE in order to ensure high standards and accountability for this program," said State Superintendent John White.

BESE policy, Bulletin 133, outlines guidelines for participation in the Louisiana Scholarship Program. The law requires that the audit be conducted after the third quarter payment and that the Department assess non-public schools according to several criteria for participation. Participating schools are required to comply with the rules regarding financial practice, and violations may result in a school being declared ineligible to participate. Specifically, scholarship funds can be spent only on educational purposes as defined in the MFP.  Additionally, per law and policy, tuition and fees charged to the program on behalf of scholarship recipients cannot exceed tuition and fees charged to non-scholarship students.  As with all auditing processes, schools had the opportunity to provide additional documentation and respond to auditors' specific findings.

Of the 117 schools audited, all were found to be compliant with Bulletin 133 except New Living Word School. In the case of this school, the audit surfaced discrepancies in the financial practices of New Living Word School that violate the rules outlined in Bulletin 133, specifically the provision stating that tuition and fees charged to the program on behalf of scholarship recipients cannot exceed tuition and fees charged to non-scholarship students.   As a result, the Department will move forward with action required by Bulletin 133 to remove the school from the program effective immediately. For a letter from the auditor outlining this violation, click here.

"These findings are evidence that the oversight process is working and that there will be zero tolerance for fiscal mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, said State Superintendent John White, "The Louisiana Scholarship Program is about giving parents a choice about where their child should be educated. We respect the commitment of the schools participating in this program and will continue to work with their leadership and educators to honor parents decisions."

Parents of students attending New Living Word School through the Louisiana Scholarship Program will be contacted by the Department by email or phone no later than Monday, July 1st by the close of business regarding their options for the coming school year. Families also can contact the Department toll free at 1-877-453-2721.

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