San Diego Unified may have to repay more than $3 million to federal programs, if the federal Department of Education follows the advice of its Inspector General, which concluded that the district misspent funds on a one-time retirement program, and recommended that the money be repaid.

But that payment could be dwarfed by an even larger liability now hovering over the schools. Federal inspectors from the Department of Education are also investigating a roughly $10 million grant from the National Science Foundation, distributed to San Diego public schools between 1996 and 2002, according to a recent audit by Vicenti, Lloyd and Stutzman LLP, commissioned by the district.

“It is uncertain whether the District will be subject to return any of these funds,” auditors wrote in their report. “Due to the uncertainty of the outcome of this matter, the district has not recognized any liability” in its recent audit.

The district’s audit did not specify why the National Science Foundation funds were under investigation.

EMILY ALPERT

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