The Associated Press reports that New York City's Churchill School and Center, a special education school for students K-12, has overcharged taxpayers to the tune of $3 million for salaries, parties, alcohol, and food.
These wrongful claims were billed between 2008-2011. The audit was released by New York Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli on Wednesday. Although the school is private, it does serve public school students. Approximately $43 million in bills were submitted for the audit period.
In another case against education providers, theIsland Child Development Center in Far Rockaway, Queens, a non-profit for assisting 3-5 year-olds with developmental disabilities, has been accused of stealing $12.5 million from the state and city.
Instead of being used for school-related costs, the money , from a grant, was used for religious private schools, camps, and home improvements reports Xavier Hernandez of The New York Times.
This is not the first black eye for special education providers. The state and city have increased their vigilance in regard to closely watching the spending of these schools, but the proper oversight has not been in place for some time.
Last year, state officials passed a law to increase supervision of these programs. The investigation of Island Child Development Center began in 2012 with state officials informing the school that they intended to do a routine audit. When they arrived, they were told that the former executive director Ira Kurman was not there and was in possession of all records. The school is no longer in operation.
However, Kelly Fay, writing for The Legislative Gazette, reports that Kramer pleaded guilty to grand larceny last week and has agreed to pay restitution. Kramer is banned for life from offering special education services.
His violations included salaries paid to 50 employees, including 11 family members, who did not have the proper employee documentation. The restitution comes to $418,000, and Kramer is on probation for five years.
DiNapoli was outraged at those who "rip off" taxpayers and rob students of receiving the services that are crucial to their well-being, and declared that it would no longer be tolerated.
"Preschool students with special developmental needs require particular attention and care," said New York County District Attorney Cyrus Vance, who prosecuted the case. "Instead of providing these young children with the special education services they needed, the defendant stole hundreds of thousands-of-dollars in taxpayer money and used it to line the pockets of his relatives, with no benefits for the intended recipients."
As of December 2013, the comptroller's office must conduct audits of all special education providers. So far, these audits have resulted in 10 felony arrests and five guilty pleas, as well as more than $3 million in required reparations.