There’s No Such Thing as a Free Lunch, Because LAUSD Spent That Money on Sprinklers Instead

If you’re already feeling nostalgia over the recent ending of National School Choice Week, take heart – there’s always a new horror to uncover connected to the operations of our public education system.

Auditors have discovered that some of California’s largest school districts are skimming money meant to pay for meals for low-income students and spending it elsewhere. Via the Los Angeles Times:

The California Department of Education has ordered districts to repay more than $170 million in misused funds to their student meal programs, the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes said in a report issued Wednesday. L.A. Unified has been forced to pay back more than $158 million in misappropriations and unrelated charges that the district made over six years ending in 2011.

At LAUSD, the money has been diverted to non-meal-related costs such as sprinklers and to pay for salaries of employees at a district television station. The Orange County Register reports that the Santa Ana Unified School District used meal money to pay for roof repairs and to provide free meals and snacks for district officials (a district trustee disputes that the money for this food came out of the same fund).

School district officials are playing dumb, whining about how complex the rules are and about how hard compliance is, which just goes to show how the mind of a bureaucrat works: "Does it specifically say we can’t use this money for school lunches for poor children on sprinklers?" In any event, in both cases, the school districts had been warned not to divert the money in this fashion. An LAUSD employee eventually blew the whistle on the school district to state officials.

The most maddening part, and the part that is important to recall the next time any school officials argue that they need more money to provide better meals, is how they managed to conserve the money:

The state Senate report concluded that the eight California school districts examined dramatically understaffed school cafeterias and tended to serve processed foods rather than more expensive fresh foods. Consequently, they were able to hoard large sums of federal and state student meal money that they then diverted to illegal uses, the report said.

You can read the whole report here (pdf). Santa Ana Unified and Baldwin Park Unified were notably running huge surpluses in their food programs while this was going on.

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  • Almanian.||

    Paying for low-income kids' lunches or salaries for the district's TV station employees? That reminds me of another Hobson's Choice:

    Beer or dental insurance....

    Beer or dental insurance....

    Beer or dental insurance....


    Except these are real people. May they burn in an especially viscious circle of hell for their transgressions.

  • Almanian.||

    Also, FUCK California.

    Speaking of which, where the hell IS Tim Cavanaugh?

  • Almanian.||

    Tell me he's not with Lucy...

  • MJGreen||

    Stuck on the LA Metro?

  • Hugh Akston||

    He's at the Frenso station waiting for the high-speed train to arrive.

  • Almanian.||


  • Hugh Akston||

    More testicles means more iron.

  • ||

    Monique Junot: I figured if we had nothing to say to each other he would get bored; go away. But instead he uses it as an excuse to put his testicles all over me.

    Lane Myer: Excuse me?

    Monique Junot: You know, like octopus? Testicles?

    Lane Myer: Ohhhh. Tentacles. N-T. Tentacles. Big difference.

  • Hugh Akston||

    Groundskeeper Willy: Lunchlady Doris, have ye got any grease?

    Lunchlady Doris: Yes. Yes we do.

    Groundskeeper Willy: [Tears shirt off] The grease me up woman!

    Lunchlady Doris: Okey-dokey.

  • Certified Public Asskicker||

    This wouldn't have happened if spending wasn't cut to the bone.

  • benji||

    Exactly. Clearly the answer is to give them more funds so they wouldn't ever have to siphon them from one account to another.

  • ||

    The best part is that this type of shit is happening everywhere. In every level and branch of government. The rare times it gets caught or--god forbid--punished are the outliers.

  • NeonCat||

    Obviously this is the fault of California Republicans.

    There's nothing they can't ruin.

  • mustard||

    Libertarian dogma:

    Corporations cut costs to buy jet skies and McMansions for the CEO = good

    Public schools cut costs to keep kids from dyeing in a fire and getting sick from leaky rooves = bad

  • Sevo||

    I'm pretty sure some ignoramus just posted this.
    Anyone have any idea WIH it's supposed to mean?

  • NeonCat||

    a) mustard went to a really bad publik skool that never learned it speling.
    b) We're bad and should feel bad, according to it.

  • Sevo||

    Well, ya know, I really do get excited when a CEO gets a new jet ski!
    I keep an eye on the business news just so I can savor those special moments!

  • ChrisO||

    But what about a jet sky? Those cost a lot more.

  • ||

    mustard, you're the worst sockpuppet ever.

  • Proprietist||

    Yeah, that's one of the most nonsensical presumptive summaries of what libertarians believe I've ever seen. Nice try though.

  • Sevo||

    "Nice try though."
    No it wasn't. It was pathetic.

  • ChrisO||

    Hey, at least he spelled dogma correctly.

  • ChrisO||

    Shock face.

  • Jerryskids||

    You mean school districts have enough money stashed back to shuffle around tens of millions of dollars in various accounts and it takes years to catch on? I thought their budgets had been slashed to like 12 or 15 dollars.

  • Almanian.||

    "More, please."

  • benji||

    On the bright side, this is combating the obesity epidemic.

  • ||

    Ummm... A school district has a TV station?

    My kid is only 4, so I admit to my ignorance of the goings on in school districts, but I live in an upper middle class suburb of Chicago and I have never heard of a school district having a tv station.

    Does a school district really need a tv station?

  • waaminn||

    Looks pretty good to me dude. Wow.

  • Mr Whipple||

    Jesus Christ. Hasn't anybody ever eaten scrapple?

    Everything but the 'oink'


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