A state audit released today found that Seattle Public Schools misspent $483,862 in federal grant money meant to improve graduation rates. District officials agree with the finding, but say the money did go to useful dropout prevention programs.
District Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Duggan Harman says two years into the five-year, $12.5 million High School Graduation Initiative grant, the district has used the federal money to pay for numerous different initiatives, including purchase of a $201,264 software program called Ripple Effects.
Harman says the program is helping keep kids in school. "I know that the Department of Education, when they were out here several weeks ago, they called it out as a 'promising practice.' This happens to be something that the state auditors called out specifically as something that was not allowed by the grant because it did not match the specific terms that were in the grant when we received it," Harman said.
The district wouldn’t comment on how the Ripple Effects software is used in the schools. But according to the manufacturer’s website, Seattle uses a version of the program that "helps teens improve their behavior and build social-emotional skills."
The Washington State Auditor's Office also found that the district used $282,598 on salaries for work not covered by the grant.
Harman says it’s up to the feds whether the district will have to return the misspent money. But he points out that the district fared considerably better in this audit than it has in audits past.