At least eight California school districts misspent millions intended to pay for school lunches for the poor, with the Los Angeles Unified District the biggest culprit, according to reports by a state Senate watchdog.
According to the California Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes, the state’s Department of Education is demanding the districts repay over $170 million to finance the lunches for low-income students, the Los Angeles Times reported Thursday
Los Angeles Unified has the most to repay. It misused $158 million over six years ending in 2011, ignoring warnings from its own administrators and inspector general before an employee tipped off state authorities to the misspending.
The diverted funding was used in most cases to pay for additional personnel, school utilities, and other expenses. But the diversion forced school cafeterias to cut corners, which led to more processed foods being served, shorter lunch periods, and a reduction in maintenance and cafeteria staff.
Richard Zeiger, the state's chief deputy superintendent of public instruction, condemned the practice.
“They are literally taking food out of the mouths of kids,” he said.
Although only eight schools were cited in the oversight report, officials believe the problem is widespread throughout the state.
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