Kansas City district falsified attendance data; owes state

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City School District falsified attendance data for three years in a bid to regain full accreditation from the state, according to the results of an investigation released Wednesday.

Because Missouri funds schools in part based on student attendance, the manipulation led to the district being overpaid and it will have to repay money to the state. The amount the district will have to return hasn’t been determined.

Seven officials were involved in falsifying the data from 2013 to 2016, the district said. Three of the employees involved in the manipulation are no longer with the district and the other four have been placed on paid administrative leave, The Kansas City Star reported.

The tampering occurred during the tenures of former Superintendent Steve Green former Interim Superintendent Al Tunis. Mark Bedell took over in July 2016 and said the district has taken several steps to ensure the manipulation never happens again.

“I can assure you that there hasn’t been any anomalies or any funny business since I came here,” Bedell said.

Green said the attendance tampering happened without his knowledge. He left in 2015 to lead the Dekalb County School District outside Atlanta. That district severed ties with him last week. He has been under fire from the Georgia Department of Education, which, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is investigating him for failing to report to the state potential ethics violations by teachers.

Tunis said he was not aware of the attendance data tampering until the district contacted him and asked him about it.

The district learned about it from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in January after a former employee reported it. Attendance is among the criteria the state uses in giving out performance scores that determine whether a district meets full accreditation. Unaccredited schools receive more oversight from the state.

Bedell said that upon learning about the allegations, the district launched an internal investigation, which led it to hire a law firm to do a separate inquiry. The district reported those findings to the state this month.

The state education department said in a statement that it appreciated the district’s “thorough and transparent response” and was working correct the falsified attendance data and collect the owed money.

The Kansas City district was unaccredited from 2012 to 2014, when it gained partial accreditation. Although it continued to receive extra monitoring, it avoided being subjected to a law that allows students to transfer to an accredited district, with the unaccredited districts picking up the tab.

The state currently has no unaccredited school districts, and the Kansas City district remains provisionally accredited.

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Information from: The Kansas City Star, http://www.kcstar.com