Aug 01, 2014

Reports Indicate No Major Findings, All Funds Reconciled

BATON ROUGE, La. – The Louisiana Department of Education today released independent audit reports for nonpublic schools participating in the Louisiana Scholarship Program showing all schools are fully compliant with Senate Bill 460 of the 2014 Regular Legislative Session (Act 467). The new law, authored by Senator Robert Adley, requires that participating schools account for all scholarship funds separately from other funds by maintaining funds in a separate account or by using accounting procedures that allow for thorough auditing of the receipt and expenditure of state scholarship funds.

“Once again, scholarship schools demonstrated compliance with state laws on the findings in the audits,” said State Superintendent John White. “The Department worked with legislators to enhance accounting procedures of the non-public schools participating in the Scholarship Program to ensure funding was distinguishable. All funding from audit findings have been recouped.”

Created in 2008 and expanded statewide through Act 2 of the 2012 Regular Legislative Session, the Louisiana Scholarship Program provides low-income families with the financial resources to choose a school that will prepare their child for a lifetime of success. To be eligible for a scholarship, students must have a family income that does not exceed 250% of the federal poverty guidelines and must be entering kindergarten or enrolled in a public school with a C, D, or F letter grade.

Since 2013, the percentage of scholarship students at Basic and above increased 4 percentage points; the percentage performing at Mastery and above increased 2 percentage points. Likewise, since 2010 the percentage of students performing at Basic and above has risen 15 percentage points; the percentage of students at Mastery and above increased 4 percentage points. Additionally, participation continues to grow as nearly 5,000 students enrolled in the first year of statewide implementation and nearly 9,000 students have been awarded a scholarship for the 2014-2015 school year. Surveys show parent satisfaction in the program continues to exceed 90 percent.

BESE policy, Bulletin 133, outlines guidelines for participation in the Louisiana Scholarship Program. The law requires certified public accountants conduct an annual, independent financial audit for scholarship schools. The audit is limited in scope to records necessary for the Department to make scholarship payments to participating schools. 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.

Audits of the 126 schools participating in the Scholarship Program during the 2013-2014 school year revealed that 24 schools, or 19 percent, had findings and only one was deemed significant. Of the $35 million in funding for the program, the audit reviews called into question approximately $52,000. In any given school year, public districts and charter schools will have adjustments based on the enrollment counts of hundreds of thousands of students. The 19 percent of scholarship schools with audit adjustments compares to 22 percent of all LEAs in the state requiring an audit adjustment following the February 1, 2013, enrollment count.

Prevailing Faith Christian Academy, located in Monroe, was the only participating school noted to have significant findings in the financial audit. To recoup the total of $13,635.75 cited, the Department reduced the state’s final tuition payment to the school from $63,000 to $49,364.25.

To view the independent audits conducted by Postlewaite & Netterville, please click here.

To view the independent audits conducted by Provost, Salter, Harper & Alford, please click here.

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