ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Education on Thursday told the state Board of Education that the GADOE was freezing the disbursement of Title I funding for the Dougherty County School System until the district resolved allocation and expenditure issues to the department's satisfaction.
At stake is more than $11 million in federal funding for the district's 16,000-plus students.
According to GADOE spokeperson Matt Cardoza, the BOE, at its monthly meeting, "discussed Dougherty and that there are some issues resolving funding issues related specifically to Title I. It looks like those allocations will be frozen until they clear up those issues."
Cardozoa said the freezing of the funds did not require the approval of the BOE.
"It (the freeze) doesn't require board action," Cardoza said. "We are doing that as the GADOE. The board approved allocations of money, and we told the board we would be freezing some of that money for Dougherty for the time being."
A source close to the situation said the state Board of Education had already approved DCSS's Title I allotment for FY 2013, but the GADOE decided to withold disbursement of the funds until at least two key issues are resolved.
The GADOE has expressed concern that the Dougherty system's FRM (Free or Reduced Meal) numbers, which are used by the state to allocate federal Title I money, were not accurate for FY 2012.
The state also is looking into possible improper Title I expenditures in FY 2012 and possibly FY 2011.
Last year, the state sent the district $8.3 million in Title I, Part A funding and $3.2 million in IDEA (special education) money.
Two weeks ago, The Albany Herald obtained an email dated June 26 from GADOE Title Programs Division Director Margo DeLaune to DCSS Superintendent Joshua Murfree in which she wrote that "additional information and/or supporting documentation is needed for the items listed below that were paid with Title I, Part A monies."
The 34 items in question ranged from $22 for emergency and registration cards to $91,000 for consulting fees paid to Darrell Sabbs and Associates.
All total, the state was seeking supporting documentation of more than $142,000 in Title I expenditures and gave the system until July 13 to respond to the request.
Delaune confirmed Tuesday she had received some documentation from the local system, but said she didn't know at the time if it was all of the information requested by her office.
In addition to the Sabbs contract, the state was also seeing information on an $18,000 check cut to motivational speaker Joseph Washington for three appearances before students at Dougherty, Monroe and Albany high schools.
"A motivational speaker is not an allowable Title I, Part A expense," LeLaune wrote. "In addition, the cost of $6,000 per day appears not to follow the reasonable and necessary component of an allowable Title I, Part A expenditure.
"Please provide follow-up documentation to support the necessity of the cost and how this meets the compliance of academic interventions for Title I, Part A expenditures."
DeLaune did not return calls for comment Thursday.