TVUSD punished again for financial improprieties
A year-long investigation by the California Department of Education (CDE) into the Temecula Valley Unified School District’s (TVUSD) special education department found a multitude of violations – click here to read the full CDE report (323 pages) – including the following examples of improper use of funds designated for TVUSD’s special education students:
- 40 school district staff members, who were not assigned to teach Special Education students, received a portion of their salaries from special education funds during the 2013-2014 school year.
- A Temecula charter school to which TVUSD was required to provide Special Education funds received only 54.3% of the funds during the 2013-2014 school year.
In total, the CDE issued 226 corrective actions and has given TVUSD a deadline of April 15, 2015 to provide evidence that all corrective actions have been completed, including repayment of the misappropriated funds.
TVUSD’s misuse of Special Education funds occurred immediately after TVUSD took financial decision making responsibility out of the hands of Riverside County, and into their own, putting them in control of tens of millions of dollars.
This change had one more implication, and it’s a big one. It allowed TVUSD to become its own regulatory watchdog. Fox, meet henhouse.
In a special meeting Friday morning, the governing board of the Temecula Valley Unified School District approved a Special Education Local Plan Area that will allow local administrators to directly oversee the programs it offers its special education students.
“Better service for our kids,” said Kimberly Velez, the district’s special education director. “I think that’s the driving force behind all of this — really looking at our population of our kids and making the best decision based on our population with our money.”The decision to depart Riverside County’s SELPA to start one specifically designed for Temecula’s needs comes with an annual budget that calls for $38.9 million in 2013-14 — which includes about $25.1 million in state and federal money — for about 3,500 special needs students in one of the county’s largest districts. That cost is about $800,000 more than what the district paid last year, said Lori Ordway-Peck, assistant superintendent of business support services.
“When a district becomes large enough, it begins to have its own unique needs that aren’t usually addressed well within the larger pool of districts that … form a SELPA,” Lori Ordway-Peck said. “That’s really what it comes down to. … When you’re part of a pool of 22 or 23 districts, you can imagine the politics of 22 districts getting together and deciding what programs get funded and what don’t.”
A history of abuse
TVUSD administrators already have a tenuous relationship with Temecula’s special needs community, a dysfunctional relationship of mistrust that finally exploded on December 11, 2012, when police were allowed to come into classrooms in three high schools, handcuffing, arresting, and incarcerating 22 children, 9 who were special education students. Of course, one of those children was our son Jesse, and the incident sparked a national outrage.
The CDE findings raise numerous serious questions regarding the use of taxpayers’ money. For starters, if the special education funds supplanted portions of 40 non-special ed employee salaries, where did the supplanted funds go? And if TVUSD only gave the identified charter school 54% of the required taxpayer funds, what happened to the other 46%?
The 323 page CDE report, which can be read and/or downloaded in its entirety at this link, paints a picture of out-of-control school administrators who treated their own special needs children as little more than ATMs, while routinely failing to provide them with many basic services, and in multiple instances adding student assessments to IEP documents days after parents reviewed and signed them.
Where does the responsibility fall?
And the Board of Education is designated for ultimate responsibility to ensure compliance. In November, 2014, three of five school board members were up for reelection, and the voters replaced all three members with the three candidates we publicly endorsed. So while the violations occurred under the old board, the current board has the authority to respond as needed.
Where there’s smoke there’s fire, and there’s no shortage of smoke here, in a way that’s eerily reminiscent of the genesis of the Bell City Council scandal.
The responsibilities of the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Support Services Jodi McClay:
The Assistant Superintendent of Educational Support Services is responsible for monitoring on an annual basis the appropriate use of all funds allocated for special education programs. Final determination and action regarding the appropriate use of special education funds shall be made through the Annual Budget Plan process.Funds allocated for special education programs shall be used for services and placement for students with disabilities, in order to provide them with a FAPE. Federal funds under Part B of IDEA may be used for the following activities:
- For the costs of special education and related services and supplementary aids
and services provided in a general education class or other education-related
setting to a child with a disability in accordance with the IEP for the child, even if
one or more nondisabled children benefit from these services.
- To develop and implement a fully integrated and coordinated services system.
The responsibilities of the Kimberly Velez, Director – Special Education (SELPA):
- Develop the annual budget and service plan
- Allocate resources, monitor the use of state, federal and local funds for special
- Develop policies, procedures and guidelines for the implementation of state and
federal statute special education requirements
- Coordinate the development and implementation of the special education
program and student outcomes, and the annual accountability procedures.
- Serve as liaison to the Community Advisory Committee
- Monitor compliance with state and federal laws
- Prepare and submit any and all State waiver requests that are needed to allow
for the provision of appropriate programs and services to students with
disabilities within the SELPA
- Prepare and submit all program and fiscal reports for the SELPA and manage
CASEMIS data system to comply with all state requirements
- Ensure the provision of services of students with disabilities in charter schools
and other alternative programs
- Assume oversight for the implementation, revisions of all Interagency
Agreements, and memorandums of Understanding operated by the District