I just caught up with Dan McAllister, the chairman of the San Diego Unified audit and finance committee, about the settlement on its misuse of federal education money on the last “golden handshake” for employees in 2003 under then-Superintendent Alan Bersin. (Confused? Here is a quick refresher.) The school district must repay nearly $700,000 into its own federally funded programs for disadvantaged students over the next two years because of the error. That can be difficult because schools get funding from numerous sources, each with their own requirements and limitations. Putting more money into the federally funded programs means taking it from another fund in the school district.
“This is not acceptable, especially in these difficult budgetary times,” McAllister said. “We can’t afford to have this happen. There are razor-thin margins, if any, for any kind of variations or variability into these budgets now because money is so hard to come by. It is sad because it obviously must come out of somewhere and something.”
He added, “There should be consequences for this type of behavior. The right staff should be in place to disallow this from ever happening again. It was wrong. And if it’s true in the cycle of operations there are buyouts offered every few years, people should be forewarned that these moneys are sacred and they can’t be utilized for every whim of an administration that decides to spend them on x, y or z.”
The million dollar question, of course, is where San Diego Unified is getting the money to put back into these programs. I’m waiting on a call back from Chief Financial Officer James Masias.