New Castle News

Closer Look

June 19, 2013

Our Opinion: New Castle school tuition travesty? Enough is enough

NEW CASTLE — New Castle’s taxpayers deserve an explanation. And some money.

With the release of the latest Pennsylvania auditor general’s report on the city’s schools, it’s been revealed that some district employees abused taxpayers to the tune of more than $110,000.

And that’s the amount we know about. Maybe there’s more.

We refer to a finding in the audit report that cited a four-year period where seven children who were non-residents attended city schools without the proper payment of tuition.

What’s more, the parents of these students were school district employees.

To say this is disturbing is an understatement. It’s outrageous that district employees would do this, and it’s just as bad that, apparently, no one called them on it.

At least until the auditor general’s office looked into the matter.

Questions about this scandal hang heavy in the air. The audit report does not identify the parents, but the public deserves to know who they are. It also deserves to know who either dropped the ball within the district or conveniently looked the other way.

It is impossible to accept the argument that the failure to pay tuition for these students was a simple misunderstanding. Surely the district employees knew the rules.

And as the audit report notes, state and district policies were violated by the failure to request and obtain any documentation related to residency in these cases. In two cases, claims that children were in the custody of grandparents who lived in the district included nothing on file to show that.

So what’s going on here? Is it just a coincidence that all of these cases involved the children of district employees? We find that hard to believe. We also find it hard to believe district officials were oblivious to what was going on.

We understand the New Castle school board is now looking into the matter. What puzzles us is that this information has been available to the board and administration for some time. Yet there apparently have been no consequences. It is only when the report is finally — belatedly in our view — made public that matters are supposedly being attended to.

And what will happen as a result of the board’s examination? At the very least, administrators should be held accountable and the district needs to go after these employees for the money that is now owed to the district.

Plus, the public should have a full explanation of what happened here. No one should be allowed to wiggle out of this.

And in that regard, we think there is ample reason for a criminal investigation into this incident. If records were falsified or deceptions made to receive free tuition, doesn’t that constitute theft and fraud?

The New Castle school board needs to stand up for the taxpayers here. Enough is enough.

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