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More than half of student governments at San Diego Unified middle and high schools that were checked by outside auditors don’t keep adequate records for receiving cash, according to a preliminary audit.

When outside auditors checked on more than two dozen schools, they found that middle and high school student governments often lacked receipts or other documents to ensure the money was accounted for. Heather Daud, audit supervisor at Christy White Accountancy, said the school clerks know the rules, but often have trouble ensuring that other people follow them.

“People are handing them money without proper backup,” Daud told a school district committee.

Some schools also didn’t get the needed approval before spending money, lacking signatures from the student government advisor or a student representative. One school misused money by spending it on office supplies. The report didn’t say exactly how much money was involved.

That problem is one symptom of the longstanding issues that San Diego Unified has had with its student government groups, which have recurred in audits. Last year, the county grand jury criticized schools for misspending more than $100,000 meant for student governments, instead spending it on school supplies, equipment and things that benefit school faculty, such as a Christmas party for employees.

The money is meant for extra activities for students, not the basics that schools are supposed to supply. The grand jury relied on internal school district audits that pointed out the problem. Internal auditors say that 40 percent of their staff are now devoted to checking on student governments, focused largely on misuse of funds.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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