Small overpayments found in La. voucher program

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Auditors looking at state funding to private schools through Louisiana's $35 million voucher program found about $52,000 in overpayments during the last school year, according to information released Friday by the education department.
Education Superintendent John White said the money has been recouped from the schools, by backing the dollars out of the last round of tuition payments.
"All of that has been reconciled," White said.
The largest amount of questioned costs was at Prevailing Faith Christian Academy in Monroe, which auditors said was overpaid $13,636 for voucher students.
White praised the audit findings as a sign the voucher program, known as the Louisiana Scholarship Program, is humming along with no significant problems.
He said of the 126 schools in the program, 24 schools — or 19 percent — had issues raised by auditors, like a child who isn't eligible for the program or voucher money inappropriately spent. White said that rate of annual audit findings was lower than in public schools.
"The scholarship schools are showing that they are doing a very responsible job and they are abiding by the law," he said.
It was the second year that schools participating in the voucher program were audited by outside reviewers.
But this year, the auditors completed their financial reviews. A year earlier, they said they couldn't track how 91 percent of the private schools spent their voucher money because the dollars weren't separated for accounting purposes.
The state education board put new tracking requirements in place that gave accountants a method to follow the flow of voucher dollars at schools. Lawmakers then added those requirements in state law.
"We worked with the auditors so that this year they had an adequate mechanism to identify the funds specific to the scholarship program," White said.
The statewide voucher program began in 2012, pushed by Gov. Bobby Jindal and approved by lawmakers.
Nearly 6,800 students received taxpayer-financed private school tuition in the 2013-14 year, and more than 8,800 students have been awarded vouchers to attend private schools in the school year that begins this month.
Vouchers are available to students from low- to moderate-income families who otherwise would attend public schools graded C, D or F in the state's rating system or who are entering kindergarten for the first time.
Nearly all the schools in the program are private, though one high-performing public school in St. Landry Parish also receives voucher students.

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