Thomas must give back grant funds

The Escambia County School Board will discuss at its Dec. 14 regular meeting the audit of the Restorative Justice Grant, the $945,000 three-year grant that Superintendent Malcolm Thomas recommended the board cancel (Read Buzz 11.18) back in September (which they did). The District will have to refund $22,346.12 to The Florida Bar Foundation.

Here is the audit: RJ audit. According to my conversations with school board members, the reason Thomas wanted to cancel the grant was he told them that the Foundation and the Collins Center were trying to control the program.

The Questions from Collins Center that are part of the audit report may shed more light into the true reasons for Thomas wanting to give up $790,000.

Collins Center wanted to know:

1) Why Bethel Youth Development (who piloted the program) wasn’t included in the projected budget
2) Why did the district bill the Restorative Justice Program Administrator $2?
3) Why are site coordinators paid different salaries?
4) Invoices differ from budget and have handwritten notations. Why?
5) Invoices of Bethel and Unity don’t match what the District provided. Why?
6) “Why Try” curriculum budget had a cost of $2110, but the invoice was only $1650. What was the actual cost?
7) Only 44 copies of book were ordered, not 50 as listed in the budget. Why?
8) Packing slip for another book didn’t include cost information.

Hope these questions weren’t why Thomas dropped the grants.

BTW: Florida’s budget shortfall for 2011 is getting larger.Property tax values for schools had declined by nearly 10 percent in 2009 and 2010. Still the slight decrease will translate into about $150 million hole in the state budget if lawmakers decide to keep school funding at its current levels. Public schools are funded primarily through a combination of state money and local property taxes.

And more BTW: Scott wants to cut school property taxes by 1 mill and replace local school funding with state money. His proposal will now cost about $1.37 billion.

….And our School District is giving up grants?????